What is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)?

Updated: Dec 27, 2017
  • Author: Shelley C Springer, JD, MD, MSc, MBA, FAAP; Chief Editor: Muhammad Aslam, MD  more...
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Answer

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which typically occurs in the second to third week of life in premature, formula-fed infants, is characterized by variable damage to the intestinal tract, ranging from mucosal injury to full-thickness necrosis and perforation (see the image below). NEC affects close to 10% of infants who weigh less than 1500 g, with mortality rates of 50% or more depending on severity, but may also occur in term and near-term babies.

Normal (top) versus necrotic section of bowel. Pho Normal (top) versus necrotic section of bowel. Photo courtesy of the Department of Pathology, Cornell University Medical College.

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