Definition of Necrotizing enterocolitis
Necrotizing enterocolitis is the death of intestinal tissue. It primarily affects premature infants or sick newborns.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Necrotizing enterocolitis occurs when the lining of the intestinal wall dies and the tissue falls off. The cause for this disorder is unknown. However, it is thought that a decrease in blood flow to the bowel keeps the bowel from producing mucus that protects the gastrointestinal tract. Bacteria in the intestine may also be a cause.
Symptoms may come on slowly or suddenly, and may include:
In an infant suspected of having necrotizing enterocolitis, feedings are stopped and gas is relieved from the bowel by inserting a small tube into the stomach. Intravenous fluid replaces formula or breast milk. Antibiotic therapy is started. The infant’s condition is monitored with abdominal x-rays, blood tests, and blood gases.
Necrotizing enterocolitis is a serious disease with a death rate approaching 25%. Early, aggressive treatment helps improve the outcome.
Todd Eisner, MD, Private practice specializing in Gastroenterology, Boca Raton, FL. Clinical Instructor, Florida Atlantic University School of Medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 5/15/2009