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Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Children


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a disease that causes infection and inflammation in your baby's bowel. It usually happens within the first 2 weeks after birth and is more common in premature infants.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.

Abdominal measuring:

Healthcare providers use a measuring tape to measure around your baby's abdomen. His abdomen may be measured every 4 to 8 hours to see if it is getting smaller or larger.


Your baby's healthcare provider may stop feeding your baby through his mouth for a period of time. This is to rest his intestines. A dietitian may talk to you about your baby's feeding and nutrition. High-calorie liquid feedings may be given through a gastric tube if your baby cannot drink milk. As he improves, he may be given a different milk formula or baby foods. Ask your baby's healthcare provider for more information about his feeding and nutrition.

CVP line:

A CVP line is also called a central line. It is an IV catheter or tube. It is put into a large blood vessel near your child's neck, groin, or near his collarbone. The CVP line may be used to give medicines, draw blood, or to check your child's heart.

Chest x-ray:

This is a picture of your child's lungs and heart. A chest x-ray may be used to check your child's heart, lungs, and chest wall. It can help healthcare providers diagnose your child's symptoms, or suggest or monitor treatment for medical conditions.

Gastric tube:

This tube is inserted into your baby's nose or mouth and down to his stomach. This keeps air and fluid out of the stomach during surgery. Food or medicine may also be given through this tube.

Intake and output

may be measured. Healthcare providers will keep track of the amount of liquid your child is getting. They also may need to know how much your child is urinating. Ask healthcare providers if they need to measure or collect your child's urine.


is a small tube placed in your child's vein that is used to give medicine or liquids.


  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Pain medicine: Your child may need medicine to take away or decrease pain. Know how often your child should get the medicine and how much. Watch for signs of pain in your child. Tell healthcare providers if his pain continues or gets worse. To prevent falls, stay with your child to help him get out of bed.
  • Special milk formulas and vitamins: These may be given through the gastric tube to make sure your baby gets the proper nutrition. Formulas that have fats and oils, which are easy to digest, may also be given.


  • Abdominal x-rays: These are pictures of your child's abdomen. Healthcare providers use these pictures to look for problems, such as blockages. They may also check for air in his bowel or large veins in the liver. Air in the abdominal cavity may also be detected with these x-rays.
  • Blood gases: These tests are also called arterial blood gases (ABGs). Blood is taken from an artery usually in your child's wrist. ABGs may be done if your child has trouble breathing or other problems caused by his illness.
  • Blood tests: Your child may need blood tests to give healthcare providers information about how his body is working. The blood may be taken from your child's arm, hand, finger, foot, heel, or IV.
  • Kidneys, ureters, and bladder x-ray: A healthcare provider uses an x-ray machine to take pictures of your baby's kidneys, ureters, and bladder. The ureters are tiny tubes that carry urine from your baby's kidneys to his bladder. The bladder is where the urine is stored before leaving his body. Healthcare providers use these pictures to help find any problems with his bowels, kidneys, or abdomen.
  • Bowel movement test: A sample of your baby's bowel movement may be sent to a lab for tests. This can help find the cause of the infection.


  • ET tube: Your child may need an endotracheal (ET) tube to help him breathe. An ET tube is put in your child's mouth or nose, and goes into the trachea (windpipe). It may be connected to a breathing machine called a ventilator. The ET tube will be taken out when your child is breathing better.
  • Surgery: Your baby may need surgery to repair or remove part of his bowel. He may also need a colostomy, which is a surgery where part of his bowel is connected to an opening on his abdomen. His bowel may be connected back when the infection and swelling have healed.


  • Your child may get an infection or bleed after surgery. Scars may lead to narrowing of his bowel and an obstruction or blockage. Babies with NEC are at higher risk for slow growth and poor nutrition.
  • If NEC is not treated, your baby's bowel cannot work well. He may not be able to absorb enough milk, food and nutrients needed by his body. Damage to his bowel may lead to bleeding or perforations (holes). This allows bacteria to leak out and can cause sepsis (blood infection) and peritonitis (swelling in the abdominal covering). If the infection spreads, it may be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your baby.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Children (Inpatient Care)

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Further information

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