Necrotizing Enterocolitis - Topic Overview
What is necrotizing enterocolitis?
Necrotizing enterocolitis is
inflammation of the
intestine. It is most common in babies who are born
early (premature). Many newborns who have it go on to live healthy lives. But
if the infection becomes severe, it can cause severe damage to the intestine,
which can be deadly. Some children may have ongoing problems with digestion, growth, or development.
This condition usually happens within the
first 2 weeks after birth. But it may occur up to 3 months after birth.
What causes necrotizing enterocolitis, and can it be prevented?
aren't sure what causes this condition. It may occur when the immune and
digestive systems do not form in the right ways. This can happen when a baby is
born early or when there are problems during pregnancy or delivery.
Experts don't know if feeding formula to a newborn can lead to
necrotizing enterocolitis. They do know that the disease is much less common in
babies who are fed breast milk.
Some doctors recommend probiotics to help prevent necrotizing enterocolitis in some infants who are at risk for it. Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms depend on
how severe the problem is. They may include:
- A swollen, tender, red, or shiny
- Dark, black, or bloody
- Low or unstable body temperature.
- Chills and
- Fast heartbeat and breathing.
- Not wanting to
- Being less active or
having little energy.
How is necrotizing enterocolitis diagnosed?
The doctor will ask about your baby's symptoms
and past health. The doctor may do tests, such as:
- An X-ray of your newborn's belly.
test to check for blood in your baby's stool (fecal occult blood
- Tests to check for bacteria in the stool, blood, urine, or
How is it treated?
baby will be treated in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Treatment usually lasts 3 to 10 days. It may last longer if the condition is
severe. Treatment includes
intravenous (IV) feeding, antibiotics, and a tube that
goes in the nose to the stomach to remove extra fluids and gas from the