For parents with a newborn in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), every day is filled with worry. One concern that looms large is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a severe condition that affects the intestines of premature infants. This ailment can lead to life-threatening complications and long-term health issues, making early diagnosis and treatment vital.
As a parent, you rely on healthcare professionals to provide the best care for your baby. Understanding conditions like NEC can empower you to actively participate in your child’s treatment and spot potential issues with the care your preemie receives.
Understanding necrotizing enterocolitis
NEC is a condition where the small or large intestine tissue starts to die in the first few weeks of life of a premature newborn. The cause isn’t entirely understood. It’s believed that an insufficient blood supply to the intestines may be a contributing factor. One of the first steps in managing NEC is recognizing the early signs. These can include a swollen abdomen, lethargy and feeding intolerance. The more promptly NEC is identified, the better the chances for effective treatment.
Once NEC is suspected or diagnosed, rapid intervention is critical. Initial steps generally include stopping feedings and administering antibiotics. Surgical removal of the necrotized or dead areas of the intestine may be necessary. In severe instances, long-term health issues like short bowel syndrome, requiring lifelong nutritional support, may occur.
Unfortunately, NEC can have long-lasting effects on an infant’s health. Those who survive may face extended hospital stays and ongoing medical issues, such as developmental delays and nutritional challenges. Parents of preemies with this condition may seek compensation if the diagnosis and treatment were delayed to due medical negligence or malpractice.