Introduction Neonatal bilious vomiting is a surgical emergency until proved otherwise, and requires prompt investigation. Health workers who are unfamiliar with the colour of bile may over or under-diagnose the presence of bile in vomit or gastric aspirates.
Objective The aim of this study was to assess whether the nursing staff, midwives and doctors at a district general hospital, where the exposure to newborns with bilious vomiting is less common than in tertiary hospitals, are able to identify the colour of bile accurately.
Design A total of 163 participants of both parents and health workers were asked to identify bile colour from a colour-chart of 8 green/yellow colour options.
Setting Paediatric Department in Yeovil District Hospital from the first of April, 2013 to August, 2013.
The results Chi-Square goodness-of-fit tests and Kolmogorov-Smirnov two-sample tests were conducted to compare different groups and answers.
Showed that the colour of bile was correctly identified by 95.5% of medical staff, 91% of nurses, midwives 72% and only 16.5% of parents. Whereas 16% of doctors, 30.5% of nurses, midwives 28% and 34% of parents wrongly identified the yellow colours as being that of bile. Our results are not significantly different from reports of similar studies done in tertiary neonatal units.
Conclusion Using bile colour posters and charts might be of value in recognising the bile colour accurately. We suggest checking the colour by 2 professionals to reduce the possibility of incorrect recognition of bile.