Learn About Necrotizing Enterocolitis

What is the definition of Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the death of tissue in the intestine. It occurs most often in premature or sick babies.

Save information for later
Sign Up
What are the causes of Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

NEC occurs when the lining of the intestinal wall dies. This problem nearly always develops in an infant who is ill or premature. It is likely to occur while the infant is still in the hospital.

The exact cause of this disorder is unknown. A drop in blood flow to the bowel can damage the tissue. Bacteria in the intestine may also add to the problem. Also, premature infants have an undeveloped immune response to factors such as bacteria or low blood flow. An imbalance in immune regulation appears to be involved in NEC.

Babies at higher risk for the condition include:

  • Premature infants
  • Infants who are fed formula rather than human milk. (Human milk contains growth factors, antibodies and immune cells which may help prevent the problem.)
  • Infants in a nursery where an outbreak has occurred
  • Infants who have received blood exchange transfusions or have been seriously ill
What are the symptoms of Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

Symptoms may come on slowly or suddenly, and may include:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Blood in the stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeding problems
  • Lack of energy
  • Unstable body temperature
  • Unstable breathing, heart rate, or blood pressure
  • Vomiting
Not sure about your diagnosis?
Check Your Symptoms
What are the current treatments for Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

Treatment for a baby who may have NEC most often includes:

  • Halting enteral (GI tract) feedings
  • Relieving gas in the bowel by inserting a tube in the stomach
  • Giving IV fluids and nutrition
  • Giving IV antibiotics
  • Monitoring the condition with abdominal x-rays, blood tests, and measurement of blood gases

The infant will need surgery if there is a hole in the intestines or inflammation of the abdominal wall (peritonitis).

In this surgery, the doctor will:

  • Remove dead bowel tissue
  • Perform a colostomy or ileostomy

The bowel may be reconnected after several weeks or months when the infection has healed.

Who are the top Necrotizing Enterocolitis Local Doctors?
Elite
Highly rated in
2
conditions
Neonatology
Pediatrics

University of Iowa Health Care

University Of Iowa Hospitals And Clinics

200 Hawkins Dr 
Iowa City, IA 52242

Steven Mcelroy is a Neonatologist and a Pediatrics doctor in Iowa City, Iowa. Dr. Mcelroy has been practicing medicine for over 23 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Necrotizing Enterocolitis. He is also highly rated in 2 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Necrotizing Enterocolitis, Premature Infant, Neonatal Sepsis, and Patent Ductus Arteriosus. He is licensed to treat patients in Tennessee, Iowa, and California. Dr. Mcelroy is currently accepting new patients.

Elite
Highly rated in
3
conditions
Neonatology
Pediatrics

Texas Childrens Hospital

Texas Childrens Hospital

6621 Fannin St 
Houston, TX 77030

Amy Hair is a Neonatologist and a Pediatrics doctor in Houston, Texas. Dr. Hair is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Necrotizing Enterocolitis. She is also highly rated in 3 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Necrotizing Enterocolitis, Premature Infant, Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia, and Small for Gestational Age. She is licensed to treat patients in Texas. Dr. Hair is currently accepting new patients.

 
 
 
 
Learn about our expert tiers
Learn more
Elite
Highly rated in
5
conditions
General Surgery
Pediatrics
Pediatric Surgery

Johns Hopkins Health System

UM Prince Georges Hospital Center

3001 Hospital Dr 
Cheverly, MD 20785

David Hackam is a General Surgeon and a Pediatrics doctor in Cheverly, Maryland. Dr. Hackam has been practicing medicine for over 30 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Necrotizing Enterocolitis. He is also highly rated in 5 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Necrotizing Enterocolitis, Necrosis, Premature Infant, and Short Bowel Syndrome. He is licensed to treat patients in Maryland. Dr. Hackam is currently accepting new patients.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

Necrotizing enterocolitis is a serious disease. Up to 40% of infants with NEC die from it. Early, aggressive treatment can help improve the outcome.

What are the possible complications of Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

Complications may include:

  • Peritonitis
  • Sepsis
  • Intestinal perforation
  • Intestinal stricture
  • Liver problems from prolonged inability to tolerate enteral feeds and need for parenteral (IV) nutrition
  • Short bowel syndrome if a large amount of intestine is lost
When should I contact a medical professional for Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

Get emergency medical care if any symptoms of necrotizing enterocolitis develop. Infants who are hospitalized for illness or prematurity are at higher risk for NEC. They are watched closely for this problem before they are sent home.

Infant intestines
What are the latest Necrotizing Enterocolitis Clinical Trials?
The WHEAT International Trial: WithHolding Enteral Feeds Around Red Cell Transfusion to Prevent Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Preterm Neonates: an International, Multi-centre, Randomized Controlled Trial
Match to trials
Find the right clinical trials for you in under a minute
Get started
Prospective Multicentric Study Estimating the Interest of a Vaginal Swab in Detection of Placental Alpha-Microglobulin-1 (Partosure®) in the Prediction of Preterm Birth
What are the Latest Advances for Necrotizing Enterocolitis?
Effect of Prophylactic Caffeine on Noninvasive Respiratory Support in Preterm Neonates Weighing 1250-2000 g: A Randomized Controlled Trial.
Glycerin Suppositories and Enemas in Premature Infants: A Meta-analysis.
Tired of the same old research?
Check Latest Advances
Compatibility of rapid enteral feeding advances and noninvasive ventilation in preterm infants-An observational study.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : April 14, 2021
Published By : Charles I. Schwartz, MD, FAAP, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, General Pediatrician at PennCare for Kids, Phoenixville, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Greenberg JM, Haberman B, Narendran V, Nathan AT, Schibler K. Neonatal morbidities of prenatal and perinatal origin. In: Resnik R, Lockwood CJ, Moore TR, Greene MF, Copel JA, Silver RM, eds. Creasy and Resnik's Maternal-Fetal Medicine: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 73.

Kudin O, Neu J. Neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis. In: Martin RJ, Fanaroff AA, Walsh MC, eds. Fanaroff and Martin's Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 85.

Seed PC. The microbiome and pediatric health. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 196.