Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)

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Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a rare but serious disease that affects the bowels of premature or newborn infants. Learn more about the symptoms, causes and treatment of the condition.

Key points

  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a condition that affects the small or large intestines of newborn infants. Most commonly, it affects those born prematurely or with low birth weight.
  • Several factors can increase a newborn’s risk of developing NEC, including: prematurity, formula feeding, difficult birth delivery, and an overgrowth of germs or bacteria in the intestines.
  • Symptoms of NEC include poor feeding, a swollen belly and bloody stools.
  • Treatment depends on the severity of the disease. NEC may be treated with antibiotics or in some cases, surgery to remove the affected bowel.
  • Most babies respond well to treatment and grow up without any bowel problems.
Last updated: November 20th 2018