Why are premature infants at highest risk for 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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The premature neonate has numerous physical and immunologic impairments that compromise intestinal integrity. Gastric acid and pepsin production are decreased during the first month of life. Pancreatic exocrine insufficiency is associated with low levels of enterokinase, the enzyme that converts trypsinogen to trypsin, which allows hydrolysis of intestinal toxins. Mucus secretion from immature goblet cells is decreased. Gut motility is impaired, and peristaltic activity is poorly coordinated. Finally, secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) is deficient in the intestinal tract of premature infants not fed breast milk.

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