What is it?

Necrotizing enterocolitis is a serious gastrointestinal problem that mostly affects premature babies. The condition inflames intestinal tissue, causing it to die. A hole (perforation) may form in your baby's intestine. Bacteria can leak into the abdomen (belly) or bloodstream through the hole. NEC usually develops within two to six weeks after birth. In some infants, NEC is mild. Others experience severe, life-threatening symptoms.

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Signs & symptoms

NEC typically occurs two to six weeks after birth, depending on the type and cause. Symptoms may come on over a few days or appear suddenly in babies who otherwise seem to be doing well. NEC is a common problem among infants in NICUs. Your baby’s care team will be on the lookout for signs of this problem. Symptoms of NEC include:
* Abdominal pain and swelling.
* Changes in heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and breathing.
* Diarrhea with bloody stool.
* Green or yellow vomit.
* Lethargy.
* docRefusing to eat and lack of weight gain.


Your doctor examine your baby. They check for a swollen belly and other NEC symptoms. they may also order these tests:
* Blood tests: A blood test checks for bacteria and other signs of infection.
* Fecal test: This test checks for blood in your baby’s poop. It can detect blood that isn’t visible.
* X-rays: Abdominal X-rays can show signs of NEC, including air bubbles (gas) around the intestine or abdominal cavity. Air bubbles can indicate a damaged bowel or perforation.


Your baby’s intestines need time to rest and heal. The first step in treating NEC is to stop tube or oral feedings. Instead, your baby receives intravenous (IV) fluids and nutrients. Your baby may also get these treatments:
* Nasogastric tube: Your provider inserts a long, thin tube through the nose (or sometimes the mouth). The tube goes into the stomach to suction out gas and fluids.
* Antibiotics: Antibiotics help fight bacterial infections.

About 1 in 4 babies need surgery to remove dead intestinal tissue and repair a hole. Your child’s provider may perform an ostomy procedure. This surgery:
* Creates a small hole (stoma) in the child’s belly.
* Connects the large intestine to the stoma.
* Allows poop to exit the body through the stoma into a bag outside of the body.

When your baby is stronger, your provider will reattach the intestines and replace them in the abdomen.
If your child is too small (weighs less than 1 pound) or too ill for surgery, your provider may place a drain (catheter) in the abdomen. The drain lessens symptoms by removing unhealthy or infected fluids and gas. If your baby still needs surgery later, the surgery will take place when your baby is bigger and healthier.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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