Necrotizing enterocolitis is defined by tenderness in the intestines that can be hazardous if not correctly and immediately treated. The condition might only affect the coating of the intestine or its whole thickness.
The damage to the tissues of the intestine can result to a perforation in the intestines that enables the bacteria normally present in the intestinal tract to leak into the abdomen and trigger an infection. Once this occurs, the infection can rapidly progress and considered as an emergency. The condition typically affects premature infants, usually within 3-12 days after birth.
What is the cause?
The root cause of necrotizing enterocolitis is still unclear. It might be due to the reduced amount of oxygen or blood being delivered to the intestines which leads to weakening.
In this debilitated condition, bacteria from food entering the intestines can result to damage or even death of the tissues that can result to a severe infection.
What are the signs?
The indications of necrotizing enterocolitis typically arise in the initial 2 weeks and might include:
- Swelling or bloating of the stomach
- Frequent episodes of vomiting
- Poor tolerance to feedings
- Blood-streaked stool
- Reddened or unusual color of the stomach region
- Apnea or pauses while breathing
Management of necrotizing enterocolitis
The treatment for necrotizing enterocolitis is based on various factors including the age of the child and overall health, seriousness of the disease and tolerance to specific drugs.
Some of the measures to consider in treating the condition might include:
- Monitoring of the bowel movements
- Antibiotics for the infection
- Cessation of regular oral feedings and switching to IV feeding
- Regular X-rays to monitor the progression of the condition
- Regular blood tests to monitor for infection
- Placement of a tube in the stomach either via the mouth or nose to remove air and fluid from the stomach and intestine
- Breathing support if needed
In serious cases, surgical intervention might be necessary to get rid of the damaged part in the intestine.