Necrotizing enterocolitis

Necrotizing enterocolitis is an infection and inflammation of the lining of the intestines that affects some newborns, usually those who are born prematurely. It can be mild or severe, leading to bowel obstruction and tissue death, and can be life-threatening.

Symptoms in a newborn may include a swollen or tender belly, poor appetite or throwing up, mild intestinal blockage and constipation, and dark, black, or bloody stools. A newborn may also have a low or unstable body temperature and not be very active or energetic.

Necrotizing enterocolitis is believed to result from a combination of factors, including premature birth and immature immune and digestive systems.

Necrotizing enterocolitis requires specialized care in the hospital. The newborn is fed intravenously to allow time for the intestines to heal, and antibiotics are used to prevent or treat infection. Surgery is sometimes necessary.

Last Updated: May 5, 2009

Author: Maria G. Essig, MS, ELS

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Jennifer Merchant, MD - Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine

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