Recent news reports have brought a frightful new medical term to light for many new parents, particularly those with premature newborns. The term is necrotizing enterocolitis and parents of premature newborns who are using baby formula to feed their infants should take note of the causes and symptoms of the disease, as well as what to do if the illness is suspected in their child.
Necrotizing enterocolitis is the most common gastrointestinal emergency condition in U.S.-based neonatal intensive care units. The condition is brought on by the infection, inflammation, and eventual death of intestinal cells. Statistics indicate that approximately 10 percent of babies weighing under three pounds and five ounces will develop necrotizing enterocolitis.
Causes of the condition vary and there is currently no consensus on any one particular trigger that can be linked throughout all cases. Some experts are studying the makeup of infant feeding formulas to determine whether there’s something about these formulas that make them more likely to cause necrotizing enterocolitis. The disease has been diagnosed in some infants that were fed only breast milk, however, rates of infection are significantly higher in those who consume formula.
Symptoms of necrotizing enterocolitis are relatively easy to spot. They include physical signs such as a swollen or bloated abdomen, bloody stool, difficulty breathing, a low heart rate, and sluggishness in the infant. Imaging may show feedings that are not moving from the stomach into the intestines. Once diagnosed by your doctor, the treatment is determined by the severity of the illness.
It is imperative that parents of premature newborns recognize the symptoms of the condition so that treatment can begin as soon as possible. Prognoses for infants with the condition are generally good so long as they receive proper and timely medical attention. Severe cases, however, can lead to the need for surgery and transplants to save the infant’s life.