The exact cause is not known. It may happen when immature intestines do not get enough blood and oxygen. This can cause bacteria to enter the intestines and cause damage.
NEC is more common in premature infants and very low weight babies. It is also more common in males. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Low levels of oxygen during labor
An infection that starts soon after birth and affects the whole body
Use of certain medicines, such as indomethacin or dexamethasone
NEC may cause:
Blood in stools
Lack of energy
Breathing pauses or problems breathing
You will be asked about your baby’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Your baby's blood, stool, and urine will be tested for signs of NEC.
Images may be taken of your baby's belly. This can be done with an abdominal x-ray.
Most babies fully recover when treated. Treatment includes:
A tube placed through the baby's nose into the stomach to remove liquids and air to help the intestine heal
Antibiotics to treat infection
Oxygen or breathing support
Babies with severe NEC may need surgery to remove the damaged part of intestine. The healthy parts will be sewn back together. Babies with a lot of damage may need part of the intestine connected to an opening in the belly wall. The opening will allow waste products to pass to a bag outside the body.
The exact cause of NEC is not known. Some steps that may help prevent it are:
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 7/24/2020
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