Necrotizing enterocolitis (nek-roh-TIE-zing en-ter-oh-coh-LIE-tis) is a serious
intestinal problem that happens to some newborns. Tissue in the colon (part of the
bowel) dies off, causing pain, swelling, or even a hole. Bacteria then get into the
blood or belly and make babies very sick.
More to Know
Doctors don't know exactly why some babies get necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC for
short). It is more common in premature infants because their intestines and immune
system are not fully developed. Experts believe that injury to the intestinal
lining, too much bacteria, and formula feeding may also contribute to NEC. NEC usually
happens in the first 2 to 4 weeks of life.
Babies with NEC need medical care right away. Treatment includes
stopping feedings and giving intravenous fluids and nutrition. Doctors give babies
with NEC antibiotics and watch them very closely. Some babies need surgery if the
colon is badly damaged.
Keep in Mind
After getting medical care, most babies recover fully. Some need more treatment
or surgery to fix problems like scarring in the intestine. Sometimes a baby's body
can have trouble getting enough nutrients, especially if part of the intestine has
All A to Z dictionary entries
are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.