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Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a medical condition primarily seen in premature infants, where portions of the bowel undergo necrosis (tissue death). It most often occurs in the days or weeks after birth. With prompt recognition and treatment premature babies that have necrotizing enterocolitis can go on to lead healthy lives. If the condition is not recognized, however, and progresses, NEC can cause severe, lie-altering damage to the intestine and can be even be fatal.
How Does Necrotizing Enterocolitis Develop?
The cause of necrotizing enterocolitis is unknown. It most often manifests in premature infants. Some suspect that there is something that causes a decrease in the blood flow to the bowel or intestine that prevents the bowel from producing protective mucus Feeding infants concentrated infant formula has also been linked with NEC.
What Causes Necrotizing Enterocolitis?
Although the exact cause is not known, it is thought intestinal tissues weakened by too little oxygen or blood flow become infected when feedings are started and food moves into the intestinal tract, allowing bacteria from the food to cause damage to the weakened intestinal tissues. This can lead to severe infection in the abdomen.