Necrotizing enterocolitis: a review of pathogenetic mechanisms and implications for prevention

Pediatr Pathol. 1993 May-Jun;13(3):357-69. doi: 10.3109/15513819309048223.


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a devastating gastrointestinal disease of premature neonates that accounts for 3000 to 4000 deaths each year in the United States. The pathogenesis is not well understood, however theories suggest that prematurity, enteral feeding, bacterial colonization, and intestinal ischemia contribute to the intestinal injury. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that platelet activating factor and perhaps other inflammatory mediators mediate bowel necrosis in animals and possibly in humans. Although no specific intervention for NEC treatment exists, preventive therapy using either enteral IgA supplementation, breast milk feeding, antibiotic prophylaxis, or exogenous steroid administration have reduced the incidence of this overwhelming disease in small randomized trials. These modalities and perhaps PAF antagonists or other inflammatory mediator inhibitors may reduce the incidence or severity of NEC in the next several years.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / congenital*
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / physiopathology
  • Enterocolitis, Pseudomembranous / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn