• We performed paracentesis or peritoneal lavage on 50 seriously ill infants and children in whom the diagnosis of intestinal gangrene or perforation was suspected. Thirty-four infants had necrotizing enterocolitis and 16 had other conditions. In infants with suspected intestinal gangrene, the presence of brown peritoneal fluid and/or bacteria on Gram's stain was indicative of intestinal gangrene. In infants with pneumoperitoneum, the presence of cloudy fluid with leukocytosis was indicative of gastrointestinal perforation. Using these two criteria, the accuracy of paracentesis in predicting the need for operation was 90%. When combined with clinical judgment, the accuracy rose to 97.5%. The rate of negative findings from abdominal explorations was 5%. Analysis of the peritoneal fluid may improve the timing and accuracy of the operative decision.
(Arch Surg 1982;117:571-575)