Microbiology and management of neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis

Am J Perinatol. 2008 Feb;25(2):111-8. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1040346. Epub 2008 Jan 30.


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a clinical syndrome of ischemic necrosis of the bowel of multiple etiological factors that include the presence of intestinal ischemia, abnormal bacterial flora, and intestinal mucosal immaturity. Numerous reports have implied that the fecal microflora may contribute to the pathogenesis of NEC. A broad range of organisms generally found in the distal gastrointestinal tract have been recovered from the peritoneal cavity and blood of infants with NEC. The predominant organisms include Enterobacteriaceae (i.e., Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae) , Clostridium spp., enteric pathogens (salmonellae, Coxsackie B2 virus, coronavirus, rotavirus), and potential pathogens (Bacteroides fragilis). The goals of the initial management is preventing ongoing damage, restoring hemostasis, and minimizing complications. Medical management includes withholding oral feeding, placement of nasogastric tube, abdominal decompression, paracentesis, vigorous intravenous hydration containing electrolytes and calories, support of the circulation, administration of antibiotics, and surveillance for deterioration or complications that require surgical intervention. Indications for surgery include clinical deterioration, perforation, peritonitis, obstruction, and abdominal mass. Prevention remains crucial to decrease the incidence of NEC. Preventive methods include cautious feeding regimens, the use of maternal breast milk, and the use of probiotics.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / diagnosis
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / microbiology*
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents