NEC Can Also Occur In Full Term Babies

July 1st, 2007 by Dr. Jae H. Kim (MD, PhD, FRCPC, FAAP)

A study by Lambert and colleagues (1) sought to find out reasons why some term babies may develop NEC. They looked back almost 6 years to review 30 cases of term or near-term babies in their hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. These infants were more likely to be born with heart disease, have a high amount of red blood cells, develop early infection and have low blood pressure. All these factors affect the blood flow to the gut. When they examined the type of feeding these babies received, not a single infant was exclusively on human milk. In other words, all the babies that developed NEC were being fed formula or a mixture of formula and human milk. In this study, 13% of the babies with NEC died.

Summary: This study continues to support the belief that NEC forms as a result of some problem of blood flow to the intestine and that human milk is still the best nutrition for newborn babies. Moreover, even term infants are not immune to developing NEC.

1. Lambert DK, Christensen RD, Henry E, Besner GE, Baer VL, Wiedmeier SE, et al. Necrotizing enterocolitis in term neonates: data from a multihospital health-care system. J Perinatol 2007;27(7):437-43.

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