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Pediatrics. 2001 Feb;107(2):416-7.

A case of protein-losing enteropathy caused by intestinal lymphangiectasia in a preterm infant.

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  • 1Via Sergio Pansini 5, I-80131, Naples, Italy.


Intestinal lymphangiectasia is characterized by obstruction of lymph drainage from the small intestine and lacteal dilation that distorts the villus architecture. Lymphatic vessel obstruction and elevated intestinal lymphatic pressure in turn cause lymphatic leakage into the intestinal lumen, thus resulting in malabsorption and protein-losing enteropathy. Intestinal lymphangiectasia can be congenital or secondary to a disease that blocks intestinal lymph drainage. We describe the first case of intestinal lymphangiectasia in a premature infant. The infant presented with peripheral edema and low serum albumin; high fecal concentration of alpha(1)-antitrypsin documented intestinal protein loss. Endoscopy showed white opaque spots on the duodenal mucosa, which indicates dilated lacteal vessels. Histology confirmed dilated lacteals and also showed villus blunting. A formula containing a high concentration of medium chain triglycerides resulted in a rapid clinical improvement and normalization of biochemical variables. These features should alert neonatologists to the possibility of intestinal lymphangiectasia in newborns with hypoalbuminemia and peripheral edema. The intestinal tract should be examined for enteric protein losses if other causes (ie, malnutrition and protein loss from other sites) are excluded. The diagnosis rests on jejunal biopsy demonstrating dilated lymphatic lacteal vessels.

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