Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is an intestinal disease. The disease typically affects infants with very low birth weight or premature infants. The disease is potentially fatal, and, unfortunately, about one-quarter of infants who are affected by NEC die from the disease. Some baby formulas, including Similac and Enfamil, have been linked with a higher risk of developing NEC in preterm or premature infants. Lawsuits have been filed accusing the makers of Similac and Enfamil of selling and marketing their formulas toward premature or preterm infants, despite knowing about the NEC risk associated with the formulas.
You may be wondering what the symptoms of NEC are if your child has consumed Similac or Enfamil or if your child is currently ill. This article will go into depth about the symptoms of NEC.
The symptoms of NEC include:
• Abdominal swelling and pain
• Abdominal discoloration
• Bloody stool
• Body temperature changes
• Yellow or green vomit
• Refusal to eat
• A lack of gaining weight
• Food that stays in the stomach longer than should be expected
• Pauses in breathing
• A low heart rate
• Decreased blood pressure
The symptoms of NEC typically show themselves during the first two weeks of an infant’s life. One of NEC’s first signs is often infants being unable to tolerate feedings.
NEC is a potentially fatal condition, so it’s crucial to get your infant immediate medical attention if he or she is displaying the symptoms of NEC.
The complications of NEC include:
• Multiorgan failure
• Bowel death
• Intestinal perforation
• Abdominal infection
• Short bowel syndrome
• Intestinal stricture
• Developmental delays
• Growth failure
• The need for surgery
• Scarring or narrowing of the bowel
NEC’s exact cause is unknown. Researchers, however, have discovered a link between NEC and baby formulas based on cow’s milk, such as Similac and Enfamil:
• Researchers discovered in 1990 that babies that were exclusively fed formula developed NEC six to 10 times more often than babies that were exclusively fed breast milk.
• Researchers discovered in 2007 that more than three times as many infants that were fed less than half of human milk ended up developing NEC compared with infants fed over half of human milk.
• Researchers discovered in 2014 that infants given formulas based on cow’s milk developed NEC over three times as much as infants exclusively fed breast milk.
• Researchers discovered in 2016 that more than two times as many infants fed breast milk that was fortified with bovine fortifier and/or preterm formula ended up developing NEC compared with infants fed exclusively with breast milk.
It was noted in 2018 that oligosaccharides, which are complex sugars in human breast milk, may reduce the risk of developing NEC.
Low birth weight, prematurity, and intestinal dysbiosis are NEC risk factors that have been described consistently.
Poor blood flow and intestinal infection are thought to be involved in NEC’s underlying mechanism.
Healthcare professionals often clinically suspect NEC based on symptoms. However, diagnosis often requires imaging such as radiography. Radiography can display the intestines and areas of the intestines with bowel perforation or tissue death.
Ultrasonography is also used to diagnose NEC and might detect complications and signs of the disease before radiography can.
Human breast milk and probiotics may prevent NEC.
In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that preterm infants be fed human milk, finding that this reduced the NEC rate by 50 to 75 percent.
A 2020 Cochrane review found that probiotic supplementation may reduce the risk of developing NEC.
Treatment for NEC can include:
• The ceasing of enteral feeds
• Fluid repletion
• Gastric decompression
• Blood pressure support
• Antibiotic therapy
• Parenteral nutrition
When the bowel is perforated, or when NEC isn’t halted by treatment alone, surgery is usually necessary. A colostomy may be required during surgery, and this might be reversible.
Most infants who are diagnosed with NEC and treated immediately fully recover without additional health issues.
About 75 percent of infants diagnosed with NEC survive the disease. Infants with NEC who require surgery may experience long-term complications, such as neurodevelopmental disability, short bowel syndrome, or narrowing of the intestines.