We review research relating ischemia/reperfusion to injury in the neonatal intestine. Epidemiologic evidence suggests that the most common form of necrotizing enterocolitis is not triggered by a primary hypoxic-ischemic event. Its late occurrence, lack of preceding ischemic events, and evidence for microbial and inflammatory processes preclude a major role for primary hypoxic ischemia as the sentinel pathogenic event. However, term infants, especially those with congenital heart disease who have development of intestinal necrosis, and those preterm infants with spontaneous intestinal perforations, are more likely to have intestinal ischemia as a primary component of their disease pathogenesis.
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