Which clinical history is characteristic of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in a term baby?

Updated: Dec 27, 2017
  • Author: Shelley C Springer, JD, MD, MSc, MBA, FAAP; Chief Editor: Muhammad Aslam, MD  more...
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Compared with a preterm infant, a term baby with NEC presents at a younger age, with a reported median age of onset that ranges from 1-3 days of life in the immediate postnatal period but that may appear as late as age 1 month.

The term neonate who is immediately affected postnatally is usually systemically ill with other predisposing conditions, such as birth asphyxia, respiratory distress, congenital heart disease, or metabolic abnormalities, or has a history of abnormal fetal growth pattern.

Maternal risk factors that reduce fetal gut blood flow, such as placental insufficiency from acute disease (eg, pregnancy-induced hypertension), chronic disease (eg, diabetes), or maternal cocaine abuse, can increase the baby's risk for developing NEC.

Specific signs and symptoms that may be part of the history include bilious vomiting or gastric aspirates, abdominal distention, passage of blood per rectum, abdominal radiographs that reveal dilated loops of bowel, pneumatosis intestinalis, free abdominal air, and other signs of systemic infection, including shock and acidosis.

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