If you have a premature baby, he or she may be at risk for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). This serious medical issue occurs when intestinal tissue starts to die, putting your child at risk of dangerous infections and complications.
Medical professionals classify NEC into three stages: suspected NEC (stage 1); definite NEC (stage 2); and advanced NEC (stage 3). Here is what you need to know about stage 2 NEC, its symptoms, and your child’s options for treatment.
What Is Necrotizing Enterocolitis?
NEC is a gastrointestinal illness that can affect all babies, but especially premature infants; babies with a birth weight below 5 and a half pounds; and babies who were fed through a tube in the stomach. When a baby has NEC, his or her intestinal tissue becomes inflamed and starts to die or necrotize.
Because NEC causes this tissue to die, a hole may appear in the intestines. This can cause bacteria and waste products to leak into the infant’s belly or bloodstream, which can lead to infections and other medical conditions. While some babies experience mild symptoms of NEC, many cases are sadly fatal.
Below are some of the most common signs of NEC. If your child experiences any of the following, seek medical attention immediately:
- Refusal to eat
- Lack of weight gain
- Pain and swelling in the abdomen
- Changes in blood pressure and heart rate
- Unstable body temperature
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Diarrhea and/or blood in the stool
- Changes in breathing
Signs of Stage 2 Necrotizing Enterocolitis
Stage 2 NEC, also known as definite NEC, is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Excess lactic acid
- No sounds in the bowels
- Low platelet levels in the blood
- Pain and tenderness in the abdomen
- Reduced or no intestinal movement
- The growth of gas-filled spaces in the intestinal walls
Your doctor will monitor your infant for these signs when you seek medical attention. Stage 2 NEC also includes all of the symptoms of stage 1 NEC, including bloody stools, vomiting, lethargy, and abnormal vital signs like unstable body temperature and a slow heart rate.
Potential Complications of Necrotizing Enterocolitis
An infant with NEC can suffer from serious complications, including infections and long-term developmental delays. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to reduce your child’s risk of these conditions.
An intestinal stricture is a narrowing of the intestines. When a baby develops an intestinal stricture, it becomes difficult for food to pass through his or her intestines and he or she may require surgery to correct the issue. This condition may develop a few months after an infant is treated for NEC.
One of the biggest risks of NEC is the risk of infection. This condition introduces potentially harmful bacteria into your infant’s belly and bloodstream. As a result, he or she can develop peritonitis, a dangerous infection of the abdominal wall. Peritonitis can lead to sepsis, which is a life-threatening complication that occurs when toxic chemicals are released into the bloodstream in order to fight an infection.
Short Gut Syndrome
Also known as short bowel syndrome, short gut syndrome occurs when NEC destroys part of a child’s small intestine. As a result, the infant is unable to absorb the fluids and nutrients that he or she needs to stay healthy and grow. Your child may need to be fed through a tube if he or she develops short gut syndrome and will require lifelong medical care.
Developmental and Growth Delays
Many children who develop NEC experience developmental and growth delays later in life. These complications are especially common in children who need surgery to treat the condition. Your child may require lifelong care to monitor his or her development and treat any issues that may arise.
Treatment Options for Stage 2 Necrotizing Enterocolitis
Treatment for stage 2 NEC involves continuing the same treatment that your baby will receive for stage 1. Your doctor will focus on resting your child’s intestines by stopping oral or tube feedings and administering his or her nutrients through an IV. Your physician will continue to monitor your child’s vital signs and symptoms to ensure that the NEC is not progressing.
Your child will also receive antibiotics to fight any infections that may occur. In addition, your doctor may perform the following procedures:
- Your physician may insert a tube into your child’s nose or mouth in order to remove air and fluid from the stomach.
- Your physician will measure and monitor your child’s belly for swelling and may place your child on a ventilator if the swelling affects his or her breathing.
- Your physician will take samples of your child’s blood and monitor these samples for any bacteria or signs of infection.
What Causes Necrotizing Enterocolitis?
There are many factors that could lead to NEC, but medical professionals are unsure what exactly causes it. It is believed that the growth of dangerous, unusual bacteria in the intestines contributes to this dangerous condition.
Many premature infants who drank formula from the brands Enfamil and Similac have been diagnosed with NEC. These toxic, cow’s milk-based products may contribute to the growth of this dangerous bacteria and serious, life-threatening complications.
Now, families of children who drank this formula and developed NEC are filing lawsuits against manufacturers Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson. These claims allege that these companies failed to warn parents and medical providers of the risk of NEC, and are therefore liable for the damages that these infants and their families have suffered.
Speak to a Necrotizing Enterocolitis Lawsuit Attorney
If your child took Enfamil or Similac formula and was later diagnosed with NEC, you and your family may qualify for legal action. By filing a lawsuit against Mead Johnson or Abbott Laboratories, you can hold the manufacturer accountable for your child’s medical care, pain and suffering, and more.
In these situations, it is important to consult with a baby formula injury attorney who is representing families in their claims against these manufacturers. After your child receives the medical care that he or she needs, schedule a consultation with an NEC injury attorney to learn more about your legal options.