Necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants and newborns

J Neonatal Perinatal Med. 2016 Sep 16;9(3):233-42. doi: 10.3233/NPM-16915130.


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the most common acquired disease of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) in premature infants and newborns. It is defined as an ulcerative inflammation of the intestinal wall. The clinical signs of incipient NEC are often very discrete, and range from localized intestinal symptoms to generalized signs of sepsis. NEC is classified depending on its severity into disease states according to the modified Bell's Classification. Treatment of NEC ranges, depending on its severity, from a conservative therapeutic approach to surgery with resection of the affected parts of the intestine. Mortality is considerably high in extremely small preterm infants reaching up to 42% of the affected children. Measures such as breastfeeding or alternatively nutrition with pasteurized human donor milk from a milk bank, administration of probiotics, avoidance of histamine type II receptor antagonists, and restrictive antibiotic treatment should be considered early on for prevention of NEC.

Keywords: Necrotizing enterocolitis; breast milk; lactoferrin; peritoneal drainage; probiotics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing* / congenital
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing* / diagnosis
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing* / prevention & control
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases* / therapy
  • Infusions, Parenteral / methods
  • Lactoferrin / therapeutic use
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Sepsis / diagnosis
  • Sepsis / epidemiology
  • Sepsis / prevention & control
  • Sepsis / therapy


  • Lactoferrin