The significance and management of pediatric pneumatosis intestinalis (PI) remains poorly defined. We sought to add clarity in children beyond the neonatal period.
Pediatric patients 3 months-18 years admitted to a quaternary children’s hospital with a diagnosis of PI were included in this retrospective study. Pathologic PI was defined as irreversible, transmural intestinal ischemia.
167 children were identified with PI. Of these children, 155 (92.8%) had benign PI and 12 (7.2%) developed pathologic PI. The most common underlying diagnosis for pathologic PI was global developmental delay (75%), although we identified a spectrum of underlying diagnoses at risk for PI. Physical exam notable for abdominal distension (p = 0.023) or guarding (p = 0.028), and imaging with portal venous gas (p < 0.001) or bowel distension (p = 0.001) were significantly associated with pathologic PI. Only 6.6% of all children underwent an operation. For those undergoing non-surgical management of benign PI, 75% of children received antibiotics and average duration of bowel rest was 6.8 days.
PI in children is primarily a benign phenomenon and often does not warrant surgical intervention. Bowel rest and antibiotics are therapeutic strategies frequently used in the treatment of this finding.

© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.