Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a medical condition that primarily affects premature infants. This life-threatening disease occurs when intestinal tissue becomes inflamed and begins to die off, leading to serious complications.
If your child begins to experience symptoms of NEC, it is critical to seek medical attention as soon as possible to avoid life-threatening infections. There are many treatment options available for NEC patients, including surgery, intravenous feedings, and the removal of air and fluid from the abdomen.
What Is Necrotizing Enterocolitis?
NEC is a disease that affects the gastrointestinal system, primarily affecting infants. This condition can be caused by a number of factors, including underdeveloped intestines, a lack of adequate oxygen flow, and bacterial infections. Certain brands of baby formula may also lead to NEC in babies.
Symptoms of this serious medical condition can vary from infant to infant. Additionally, babies who are at a more advanced stage of this condition are more likely to experience severe and devastating health effects. Below are some of the common signs of NEC:
- A belly that is swollen, red, or tender
- Difficulty or a lack of interest in feeding
- A low, unstable body temperature
- Dark, bloody stools
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Green vomit
- Unstable breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Slowed heart rate
The Stages of Necrotizing Enterocolitis
Medical professionals categorize NEC into three stages based on the severity and progression of the condition. The stage of NEC will have a major impact on what type of treatment that your child will require. Your child’s doctor may use X-rays and other imaging techniques to diagnose the disease and monitor its progress.
- Stage 1 NEC: This is the first and mildest stage of NEC. The baby may experience lethargy, an unstable temperature, and difficulty breathing. The doctor may find that his or her intestines are dilated and will begin administering treatment like antibiotics and tube suction.
- Stage 2 NEC: There are two types of stage 2 NEC: stage 2a, and stage 2b. In stage 2a, the child is mildly ill and may begin experiencing symptoms like metabolic acidosis or abdominal tenderness. In stage 2b, the child is moderately ill and experiences worsening symptoms.
- Stage 3 NEC: Stage 3 is the most severe form of NEC. There are two stages, which depend on whether the child’s bowel is intact or is perforated. In stage 3a, the bowel is intact, but the child may begin to go into shock, suffering respiratory or circulatory arrest. In stage 3b, the bowel is perforated or has a hole in it, increasing the risk of an infection.
Treatment Options for Babies with NEC
Doctors will approach treatment for NEC by first identifying the stage of the condition and any complications that the child is suffering. At minimum, your child’s medical team will likely administer the following treatments:
- Tube Suction: Many babies with NEC have a buildup of fluid and gas in their abdomens. Your child’s doctor may insert a tube through his or her nose or mouth into his or her stomach to relieve the pressure in your child’s belly.
- Abdominal Monitoring: NEC can cause severe swelling in the abdomen, which could interfere with your child’s breathing. Your child’s doctor will want to monitor and measure your child’s belly to avoid these complications. If necessary, your child may need to be given oxygen or placed on a ventilator.
- Blood Testing: Deadly infections are a major risk for NEC. When the intestine is perforated, waste can leak into the baby’s abdomen and bloodstream. Your doctor will take regular blood samples to look for any bacteria and respond to potential infections.
Treatment for stage 1 NEC usually involves supportive care. Your child’s medical team will want to rest his or her intestines by feeding him or her through an intravenous tube. Your doctor will use X-rays to monitor your child’s intestine and ensure that the disease is not progressing.
During stage 2 NEC, the risk of infection increases. Your doctor will continue to provide stage 1 treatment while administering antibiotics. In cases involving stage 3 NEC, your child may require surgery to help remove any damaged or dying portions of the intestine and repair perforations.
What to Do If You Suspect That Your Child Has NEC
If you believe that your child has NEC, it is important to seek emergency medical attention immediately. NEC is a life-threatening disease that requires medical care. You should always go to the hospital to avoid potentially fatal complications.
Some cases of NEC are caused by defective baby formula from the manufacturers Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson. These companies produce the formula brands Similac and Enfamil, respectively. If you believe that your child’s condition is linked to this formula, stop using it immediately and speak to an attorney.
Below are some of the baby formula brands that are linked to the development of NEC:
- Enfacare Powder
- Enfamil NeuroPro Enfacare
- Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Acidified Liquid
- Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Powder
- Enfamil Premature 20 Cal
- Enfamil Premature 24 Cal
- Enfamil Premature 30 Cal
- Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Liquid High Protein
- Enfamil Milk Fortifier Liquid Standard Protein
- Similac Human Milk Fortifier Concentrated Liquid
- Similac Special Care 20
- Similac Special Care 24
- Similac Special Care 24 High Protein
- Similac Special Care 30
- Similac Special Care
- Similac Human Milk Fortifier
- Similac Human Milk Fortifier Powder
- Similac Liquid Protein Fortifier
- Similac NeoSure
- Similac Alimentum
Filing a Lawsuit for NEC Caused by Baby Formula
Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson have caused severe harm to many infants and their families. These companies failed to disclose the risk of NEC to premature infants who consume certain forms of Enfamil and Similac. Therefore, they are liable for any damages that injured children and their families have experienced.
If you believe that your child’s NEC was caused by Enfamil or Similac, you have the right to pursue a baby formula lawsuit against the manufacturer. Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson failed to warn patients and medical providers about their dangerous products and deserve to be held accountable. By filing a lawsuit, you could recover financial compensation to pay for your child’s medical care, pain and suffering, and more.
In these situations, it is important to consult with an attorney who is representing NEC victims and their families. A lawyer can help your family file a claim against Abbott Laboratories or Mead Johnson and hold the entity accountable for your child’s NEC-related damages. After your child’s diagnosis and treatment, contact an Enfamil or Similac recall attorney to discuss your legal options.