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Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)


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Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a condition that affects the intestine. It mainly affects premature or very sick infants, and it’s more common in formula-fed babies than those who are breastfed. It usually occurs while the infant is still in the hospital.

Bacteria invade the wall of the baby’s intestine, causing infection and swelling that eventually destroys the intestinal wall. This, in turn, can lead to further infection and can be life-threatening.

Signs of NEC include:

  • Bloating
  • Blood in the stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Inability to tolerate feedings
  • Lethargy
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low heart rate
  • Low respiratory (breathing) rate
  • Pauses in breathing (apnea)
  • Red, tender abdomen
  • Vomiting green bile

University of Miami Health System neonatologists provide comprehensive care for newborns with NEC. Our team of pediatric specialists can manage all aspects of your baby’s treatment using the latest approaches.


An abdominal X-ray checks for the presence of gas or air bubbles in the wall of the intestine.

Blood Test
Doctors use blood tests to look for a low platelet count and a high white blood cell count, which can be a sign of NEC.


Insertion of Orogastric Tube
Your baby’s doctor places a special tube that goes from your baby’s mouth to their stomach to remove air and fluid from their stomach and intestine.

Antibiotic Medicines
In most instances, doctors use intravenous (IV) antibiotics to treat the infection.

Ongoing Monitoring
Most cases of NEC resolve without the need for surgery. Your child’s doctor will monitor your baby’s health and order abdominal X-rays to continue to check for signs of infection.

Why Choose UHealth?

History of excellence in critical care for babies. Our neonatologists see patients at Holtz Children’s Hospital, which has one of the largest, longest established Level III neonatal intensive care units in the United States. Our neonatal program has been ranked among the best NICUs in the United States by U.S. News & World Report for the past several years. When you trust us to care for your baby, you can be confident that you are putting your child’s care in highly qualified, compassionate hands. 

Recognized by our peers and patients for our excellence. Many of our pediatric doctors are recognized as America’s Top Doctors® by Castle Connolly — doctors who are nominated by their peers as being the very best in their communities. We have more Top Doctors than any other health system in South Florida. We’re affiliated with Holtz Children’s Hospital, one of the largest children’s hospitals in the southeastern United States. The hospital is ranked among the nation’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report in diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology and GI surgery, and nephrology.

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