Use of ultrasound for early diagnosis of necrotizing enterocolitis in laboratory premature piglets

Thomas Thymann

Premature neonatal infants require careful monitoring of organ function to avoid clinical complications. The intestine is at risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which can be fatal and therefore requires close attention from healthcare professionals. As part of the development of NEC, air accumulates in the intestine as a result of the fermentation by intestinal bacteria. The air accumulation leads to enlarged abdominal circumference, which is one of the clinical signs of NEC. In infants the condition is treated with painkillers and antibiotics, but in worst cases it may be necessary to surgically remove areas where the intestine is affected.

Rodent models are predominantly used for research in the NEC, but a significant limitation of these models is that due to the size of the animals, it is difficult to follow the development of the disease. Pigs born prematurely by caesarean section show many of the same symptoms as children and is therefore a recognized animal model in NEC research. With support from the 3R Center, it is our desire to use ultrasound assessments of the abdominal cavity to determine the level of air accumulation. The purpose of the project is to establish clear ultrasound-based criteria for timely euthanasia, such that pain and discomfort is minimized.


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