Posted by : Ed Lott, Ph.D., M.B.A.
What is Necrotizing Enterocolitis?
This is a condition that can severely injure or kill an infant. Premature infants fed cow milk-based formula run a higher risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Despite the fact this was known at least since 1990, baby formula manufacturers have not changed their products, labeling, or warnings to address this fact.
When cow’s milk-based baby formula like Similac or Enfamil is given to premature babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), it can cause a serious gastrointestinal disease known as NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis).
The injuries and deaths caused by NEC in infants fed formula are the subjects of an increasing number of lawsuits against major baby formula manufacturers. If your firm’s interested in learning more about baby formula litigation or how ZeroRisk Cases LLC, can help, contact us today.
If you represent a client in one of these cases, NEC will be a significant issue in the litigation. One of the nation’s leading children’s hospitals is Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). They state it’s a severe intestinal illness for infants.
What are the Causes?
The medical community doesn’t know what causes NEC. It’s believed if the intestine is weakened by insufficient oxygen or flow it’s more likely to suffer the condition. When feedings start, food moves through and damages the weakened intestine. The affected tissues may die, causing a hole in the intestine. This physical leak into the abdomen can cause severe infections. Several studies show that premature infants fed formula run a much higher risk of NEC than those fed human milk.
Who is More Likely to Develop NEC?
Cases happen in up to five percent of newborns in intensive care units. NEC is more common when babies weigh less than three pounds, four ounces. The bodies of premature babies have immature organs and systems. They may not circulate blood and oxygen well, have problems with digestion and fighting infections. This all adds up to greater chances of NEC.
High-risk babies, especially premature babies, who take human milk by mouth or through stomach tube feedings have an increased NEC risk. The condition’s much less common in infants fed human milk and rare in those who haven’t been fed yet.
Those having difficulty delivering oxygen, or who have low oxygen levels, have a higher NEC risk. If the baby has too little oxygen, most blood and oxygen goes to more essential organs and away from the intestine. This can cause less oxygen to move through the intestine, causing tissue damage.
Why is NEC a Problem?
A hole can develop in damaged intestinal tissues. Bacteria normally in the intestinal tract can leak out into the abdomen, causing infection. NEC can progress very quickly, and infected intestines can overwhelm a baby. Despite treatment, severe complications may develop, including:
- A hole in the intestine
- Narrowing of the intestine
- If a large part of the intestine is surgically removed, the infant may have difficulty absorbing nutrients from food, impacting the whole body
- Severe, possibly fatal infections
What are NEC Symptoms?
Symptoms usually appear in the first two weeks after birth and may include:
- Abdominal bloating or swelling
- Feedings remain in the stomach and don’t go into the intestines as normal, so the body doesn’t absorb them, impacting health and development
- Bloody stool
- Signs of infection like stopped breathing, low heart rate, and sluggishness
Other conditions have similar symptoms, so the infant may not be properly diagnosed.
How is NEC Diagnosed?
The infant’s examined for symptoms. This may include an abdominal X-ray. If NEC is present, an X-ray may show a bubbly appearance in the intestine along with signs of air or gas in the liver’s large veins. A needle into the abdominal cavity may remove air or intestinal fluid (a sign of a hole in the intestines).
How is NEC Treated?
That depends on many factors, including:
- The infant’s gestational age, health, and medical history
- The severity of the disease
- Tolerance for medications, procedures, or therapies
- The expectations for the course of the disease
- The parent’s opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
- Stopped feedings
- A nasogastric (NG) tube (going from the nose into the stomach) keeping the stomach empty
- Intravenous fluids for nutrition and fluid instead of feeding
- X-rays to monitor the disease
- Extra oxygen or assisted breathing if a swollen abdomen interferes with breathing
Severe cases may be treated by surgical removal of diseased intestine or bowel or by connecting part of the intestine or bowel to an ostomy (an opening on the abdomen).
How Can NEC be Prevented?
“Studies have found that babies who have had only breast milk (rather than formula) are less likely to develop NEC,” according to CHOP. Conversely, studies have also shown premature infants fed with cow milk-based formula are six to ten times more likely to develop NEC.
ZeroRisk Cases Can Help Your Law Firm Grow
If your firm currently works on, or is seeking mass toxic cases like those involving baby formula, we can provide you with the clients you need. Why put up with the hassles, time, and expense of marketing and advertising to reach these prospects? ZeroRisk Cases will contact potential clients ready, willing, and able to retain your legal services so you won’t have to.
Contact us for a quote. Call 833-937-6747 or use our Request A Quote form.
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