Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Treatment of necrotizing enterocolitis depends on the severity of the baby's condition. The treatment plan may include medical treatments or surgery.

Medical Treatment

Medical treatments may include:

  • Stopping all regular feedings and using an intravenous (IV) catheter to provide nutrients to the baby
  • Placing a nasogastric tube extending from the baby's nose into the stomach to suction air and fluids from the baby's stomach and intestine
  • Antibiotic therapy to treat possible infections
  • Checking stools for blood
  • Frequent blood tests to look for signs of infection and imbalances in the body's chemistry
  • Oxygen or mechanically assisted breathing if abdominal swelling interferes with breathing
  • In severe cases, platelet and red blood cell transfusion

Surgical Treatment

If a baby doesn't respond to medical treatment, or if there's a hole in the intestines, surgery is necessary. The pediatric surgeon will perform an abdominal laparotomy, a procedure that involves opening the abdomen to examine the condition of the bowel. With severe NEC, part of the bowel may be removed. The goal is to remove only the part of the bowel that has no chance of recovery. In some cases, a rubber tube is placed in the abdomen to allow drainage of infected fluid.

A temporary ostomy, in which an opening is made in the wall of the abdomen, may be necessary to allow the bowel to recover and heal. As part of the procedure, a stoma is created to allow the passage of stool. Another operation to reexamine the abdomen may be required 24 to 48 hours later to determine if NEC has progressed.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Critical Care

Intensive Care Nursery
1975 Fourth St., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-1565
Fax: (415) 353-1202

LIFE Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 476-2538
Fax: (415) 476-2929