What are the signs and symptoms of 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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The clinical presentation of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) includes nonspecific aspects of the history, such as vomiting, diarrhea, feeding intolerance and high gastric residuals following feedings. More specific gastrointestinal tract symptoms include abdominal distention and frank or occult blood in the stools.

With disease progression, abdominal tenderness, abdominal wall edema, erythema, crepitans, or palpable bowel loops indicating a fixed and dilated loop of bowel may develop. Systemic signs, such as apnea, bradycardia, lethargy, labile body temperature, hypoglycemia, and shock, are indicators of physiologic instability.

Epidemiologic studies demonstrate that demographics, risk factors, patient characteristics, and clinical course differ significantly between term and preterm infants with NEC.

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