Purpose: A major objective of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) research is to devise a noninvasive method of early detection. We hypothesized that abdominal near-infrared spectroscopy (A-NIRS) readings will identify impending NEC in a large animal model. Methods: Piglets were prematurely delivered and received parenteral nutrition followed by enteral feedings. Serial A-NIRS readings were obtained for 5 days, and animals were monitored for NEC. Separately, A-NIRS readings were obtained in healthy piglets to validate the correlation of A-NIRS with splanchnic oxygen delivery. Results: Of 29 piglets, 3 developed NEC. Eleven piglets without NEC died prematurely. Fifteen piglets remained healthy, had normal histologic assessment of their intestines, and served as controls. Abdominal near-infrared spectroscopy readings within 12 hours of birth were significantly lower in animals that developed NEC compared with healthy littermates (4% vs 33%, P = .02). For all time-points measured, A-NIRS readings were significantly lower in the NEC group compared with controls (21% vs 55%, P < .001). Abdominal near-infrared spectroscopy readings correlated with both decreased pulse oximetry readings during apneic episodes (r = 0.96) and increased superior mesenteric artery flow in response to glucagon-like peptide 2 (r = 0.67). Conclusion: Abdominal near-infrared spectroscopy is capable of detecting alterations in intestinal oxygenation and perfusion in neonatal piglets and may allow early detection of neonates at risk for NEC. © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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