Preterm babies are relatively more exposed to different kinds of health issues than the term babies. Is your baby born prematurely? Underdeveloped lungs are not the only issue you should be concerned about. There is another serious condition that adversely affects the intestine of preterm babies called Necrotizing Enterocolitis. It is very important to understand its symptoms and get treatment right away as this issue tends to progress very quickly and can take a dangerous turn. While the disease is related to the baby’s digestive system, it is only diagnosed in babies with lower body weight than normal. In this guide, we shall cover all the important points about how this deadly disease is caused, diagnosed, and its effective treatment to keep your baby’s body healthy and sound. So, let’s get started!
What Is Necrotizing Enterocolitis?
NEC or Necrotizing Enterocolitis refers to a serious condition that affects the intestine of preemies. The condition, more often than not, affects the inner lining of the small intestine. It can also affect the colon. It usually occurs within the first two weeks after the baby is born, especially if the baby is fed formula instead of breast milk. In severe cases of NEC, a hole may form in the wall of the intestine that permits the bacteria, which normally found inside the intestine, to seep out into the abdomen. This calls a medical emergency because if the bacteria get into the bloodstream and other parts of the body, it can be life-threatening.
How Is Common The Condition?
This disease is quite common among newborn babies who have less than normal body weight. NEC is most common in premature infants (especially those babies born before 32 weeks of gestation). It is rarely observed in full-term babies (though it is reported in the full-term baby with heart issues). Nearly 10% of preemies are found to contract NEC.
What Causes NEC?
Although there is no such evidence for what causes Necrotizing Enterocolitis, there are some factors supposed to trigger NEC:
- The underdeveloped intestine is the major reason for NEC.
- Formula feeding
- Any kind of injury to the intestinal lining
- A shortage of oxygen or blood in the newborn can trigger the functioning of the whole body, which creates massive damage to the intestinal cells.
- Abnormal increase of intestinal bacteria
- Babies of age group 2 to 4 years suffering from congenital heart disease are more prone to NEC.
What Are The Risk Factors For Developing NEC?
Babies are regarded as the most sensitive creatures on earth. If they are underweight or prematurely born, their bodies are not fully developed to digest the bacteria present around them. Thus, the following are some of the risk factors that might lead to necrotizing enterocolitis:
- Lack of standardized feeding protocol
- Cardiac disease associated with poor perfusion
- Extremely low birth weight
- Reduction in gastric acidity
- Acute hypoxia
- The quick advancement of feeds
- Baby’s Feeding Formula
- Preemies having tube feeding
- Babies born with a gastrointestinal infection
- Babies with an increased number of RBC are prone to NEC
What Are The Symptoms Of Necrotizing Enterocolitis?
There are a plethora of signs and symptoms that may lead to the disease of necrotizing enterocolitis, and some of them are mentioned below:
- Poor Feeding
- Discoloration of the abdomen
- Disrupted breathing
- Bloody stool
- Swelling of the abdomen
How Is The Condition Diagnosed?
The problem of NEC can be easily diagnosed by observing the symptoms listed above. A simple X-ray of the abdomen showing results of some bubbly appearance in the lower part of the intestine and the availability of air in the large veins of the liver. Also, air might be present on the outer part of the intestines in the abdomen. Usually, a small needle is inserted in the abdomen area to check the presence of NEC disease and if there is some withdrawal of intestinal fluid from the abdomen hole.
How Is NECTreated?
The condition of necrotizing enterocolitis can be treated quickly using the doctor’s guidelines and medications. It also depends on the severity and overall health condition of the child. Irrespective of the treatment, the baby will be under continuous monitoring. Now, let’s have a look at the specific treatments suggested for the baby suffering from NEC:
- Antibiotics to fight the infection
- Surgical removal of damaged/dead part of the intestine
- The extra oxygen in the case of a swollen abdomen which is in interfering with the breathing process.
- Nasogastric tube to keep the stomach empty
- Intravenous fluids (IV) for nutrition and fluid replacement.
- Isolation procedures to keep any infection from spreading
- Stopping feedings
- Frequent X-rays for monitoring the progress of the disease.
- Connecting part of the intestine or bowel to an ostomy.
What Are The Complications Of Necrotizing Enterocolitis?
NEC might lead to the enlargement of the intestinal wall creating an intestinal blockage. Perforation in the intestinal wall is another complication. Perforation takes place in the areas of the colon, terminal ileum, and the proximal small bowel. Another complication that arises due to NEC is malabsorption. In this condition, the intestine fails to absorb nutrients. It’s more likely to develop if a section of the intestine is removed as a part of treatment.
How To Prevent NEC?
Given below are some of the most effective preventive measures for NEC:
- Mixed Flora Probiotic: Use of these probiotics that consist of supplements having potentially beneficial yeast or bacteria is found to cure this problem of its roots.
- Breast Milk Feeding: Mother’s milk is powerful enough to provide all the vital nutrients to fight any type of baby’s problems.
- Cautious Feeding Strategy: Nothing else except for the mother’s feed should be permitted to improve the baby’s health.
- Fluid restriction: It is advised to delay feeding in this phase until the baby gets out of threat.
It is important not to neglect Necrotizing Enterocolitis as your baby may be prone to severe conditions if this is ignored. Also, follow all the guidelines provided by the doctor religiously and try keeping your baby in intensive care for quick recovery.