Development of an international core outcome set for treatment trials in necrotizing enterocolitis—a study protocol

Daphne H. Klerk, Otis C. van Varsseveld, Martin Offringa, Neena Modi, Martin Lacher, Augusto Zani, Mikko P. Pakarinen, Antti Koivusalo, Ingo Jester, Marie Spruce, Joep P. M. Derikx, Roel Bakx, Amine Ksia, Marijn J. Vermeulen, Elisabeth M. W. Kooi, Jan B. F. Hulscher

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the most lethal disease of the gastrointestinal tract of preterm infants. New and existing management strategies need clinical evaluation. Large heterogeneity exists in the selection, measurement, and reporting of outcome measures in NEC intervention studies. This hampers meta-analyses and the development of evidence-based management guidelines. We aim to develop a Core Outcome Set (COS) for NEC that includes the most relevant outcomes for patients and physicians, from moment of diagnosis into adulthood. This COS is designed for use in NEC treatment trials, in infants with confirmed NEC. Methods: This study is designed according to COS-STAD (Core Outcome Set-STAndards for Development) recommendations and the COMET (Core Outcome Measures in Effectiveness Trials) Initiative Handbook. We obtained a waiver from the Ethics Review Board and prospectively registered this study with COMET (Study 1920). We will approach 125 clinicians and/or researchers from low-middle and high-income countries based on their scientific output (using SCIVAL, a bibliometric tool). Patients and parents will be approached through local patient organisations. Participants will be separated into three panels, to assess differences in priorities between former patients and parents (1. lay panel), clinicians and researchers involved in the neonatal period (2. neonatal panel) and after the neonatal period (3. post-neonatal panel). They will be presented with outcomes currently used in NEC research, identified through a systematic review, in a Delphi process. Eligible outcome domains are also identified from the patients and parents’ perspectives. Using a consensus process, including three online Delphi rounds and a final face-to-face consensus meeting, the COS will be finalised and include outcomes deemed essential to all stakeholders: health care professionals, parents and patients’ representatives. The final COS will be reported in accordance with the COS-Standards for reporting (COS-STAR) statement. Conclusions: Development of an international COS will help to improve homogeneity of outcome measure reporting in NEC, will enable adequate and efficient comparison of treatment strategies, and will help the interpretation and implementation of clinical trial results. This will contribute to high-quality evidence regarding the best treatment strategy for NEC in preterm infants.
Original languageEnglish
Article number367
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • Children
  • Consensus meeting
  • Core Outcome Set
  • Core Outcomes
  • Delphi
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Preterm

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