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Necrotizing Enterocolitis Stages & Risk Factors

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Select Justice
November 18, 2021

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a severe digestive condition that occurs most often in premature infants. While some babies with NEC fully recover, others suffer from complications that result in permanent health conditions. Certain complications of NEC can result in infant death. 

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What Is Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

While NEC occurs most commonly in premature babies, full-term infants can develop the condition as well. NEC causes the death of intestinal tissue. In some babies, a hole can develop in the intestinal tissue. Bacteria can leak out of the hole and cause serious health complications. While some cases of NEC can be treated with feeding changes and antibiotics, other cases require surgery. Approximately ⅓ of babies who require surgery to treat NEC die as a result of the condition. Many infants who suffer from NEC experience lifelong complications, such as cognitive and digestive issues. 

What Are The Stages Of NEC?

Necrotizing enterocolitis symptoms can begin to show over a few days or can occur suddenly. 

There are several stages of NEC:

  • IA: Suspected — Infants in this stage of NEC may experience an unstable body temperature, an unstable heartbeat, apnea, lethargy, gastric retention, and abdominal distention. 
  • IB: Suspected — In this stage, infants experience the same symptoms as listed for stage IA, as well as a very bloody stool. 
  • IIA: Definite, mildly ill — Signs of stage IIA NEC include the same symptoms as stage IA and IB, as well as the absence of bowel sounds. Infants in this stage of NEC may experience tenderness in the abdomen. 
  • IIB: Definite, moderately ill — In this stage, infants show all the signs of stage IIA, and may also show a low blood platelet count. Infants in stage IIB of NEC also have definite abdominal tenderness and may show a mass in the lower right area of the abdomen. 
  • IIIA: Advanced, severely ill, intact bowel — Infants in stage IIIA of NEC show signs including all of the signs of stage IIB, as well as severe apnea, respiratory and metabolic problems, low blood pressure, and neutropenia (a condition in which there are too few infection-fighting white blood cells).
  • IIIB: Advanced, severely ill, perforated bowel — In stage IIIB, infants have all the symptoms included in stage IIIA, as well as the presence of gas in the abdominal cavity (detected by an x-ray).

Treatment for NEC depends on the severity of the condition. Infants diagnosed with stages I and II of NEC often respond well to antibiotic treatment ranging from three days to two weeks. Infants in stage IIIA of NEC may need ventilator therapy and fluid resuscitation, as well as antibiotics and other treatments. Stage IIIB requires surgery in addition to other treatments. 

If you believe that your infant is showing signs of NEC, it’s important that you seek care right away. Without treatment, NEC can quickly progress and lead to severe complications or death. 

What Are The Risk Factors For NEC?

Babies that are born before 37 weeks of gestation, weigh less than 5 ½ pounds at birth, or who are tube-fed are more likely to develop NEC. Babies who weigh less than two pounds are birth are most likely to develop the condition. 

NEC Risk Factors
NEC Risk Factors

Scientists aren’t completely sure what causes NEC. Premature babies have weaker immune and digestive systems than full-term babies. Both of these factors make premature babies more susceptible to digestive infections. In full-term babies, blood easily flows through the entire body. In premature babies, it’s harder for blood to reach the digestive organs. A lack of blood to the digestive organs can create tissue damage, creating an opening for bacteria to leave the abdomen and leak into other areas of the body. 

What’s The Connection Between NEC And Infant Formula?

Premature babies who are fed dairy-based formula are more likely to develop NEC than other premature babies. Many parents whose children developed NEC feel that, at the very least, infant formula companies like Similac and Enfamil should put warning labels on their products informing parents of premature babies of the potential risks associated with use.

NEC & Baby Formula Connection
NEC & Baby Formula Connection

Did Your Baby Experience NEC After Using Enfamil Or Similac Formula?

As a parent, you want to do everything you can to keep your baby safe, and it’s tough to imagine that you fed them something that caused harm. If your baby developed NEC after drinking Enfamil or Similac formula, you may have a viable lawsuit that can provide you and your child with the financial compensation you deserve. While no amount of money can make up for watching your child go through pain, financial compensation can help with medical bills, time off work, and other financial issues that can pile up during a difficult health issue. Reach out to us today for a free case evaluation. 

Free Case Evaluation

If your child was diagnosed with NEC, Select Justice can help you fight for your rights and compensation.

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