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Home > Events & Health Information > Diseases & Conditions > Very Low Birth Weight Conditions (< 1500g) > Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC)

Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC)




Our team of doctors works closely with paediatric surgeons to manage this condition.



Signs & Symptoms

Premature babies with Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC) can present with increased gastric residues, vomiting, abdominal distension and also changes in vital parameters. Blood can occasionally be passed out in the stools.



What causes it

No specific cause is known. However, several subgroups of babies are known to be at high risk of NEC such as babies who are very premature, with reduced blood flow to the intestines in the womb and whom are not fed with breast milk.



About the condition

NEC is one of the conditions affecting babies with very low birth weight (VLBW).


To prevent this from occurring, premature babies are evaluated individually for this risk and mother's breast milk is strongly advocated for feeding. The premature baby at risk for NEC is usually fed with a slow and gradual increase in milk quantity, and will be watched very closely to see that the baby tolerates the milk feeds.


Diagnosis and Treatment Options

This condition can be divided into 3 stages with increasing severity, based on clinical and X-ray findings.  In mild cases, treatment is stopping milk feeds temporarily for a few days.  In confirmed cases, milk feeds are stopped for about 1 to 2 weeks, while antibiotics are started and referral made to the surgeons. In severe cases of NEC, surgery may be required.


Severe NEC showing gas in the abdomen cavity




Post Op Care

Depending on the extent of the intestines affected, an ileostomy or colostomy (an opening from the intestines to the skin of the abdomen) may be created. Certain lengths of the intestines may also be removed if the intestines appear to be not viable. Specialised care will be required for these babies.



Support Group

The Early Starters Group is a support group for parents of premature babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).



Clinical outcome

In our VLBW cohort (2011-2017), our rate of NEC is 2.4% as compared to the Vermont Oxford Network rate of 5.6% in 2015.


Information is correct as of December 2017.