Who is affected by necrotizing enterocolitis

Necrotizing enterocolitis is the most common gastrointestinal emergency among newborns, usually those who are born prematurely. It mainly affects premature infants who weigh less than 1500 g (3.3 lb). One baby out of 10 with a birth weight less than 1500 g (3.3 lb) has it.1

Being born prematurely and at a low birth weight puts an infant at risk for necrotizing enterocolitis.

Other possible risk factors include:2

  • Being exposed to bacteria. A newborn who has intestinal damage may be more susceptible to infection.
  • Having more red blood cells than needed (polycythemia).
  • Being exposed to cocaine or methamphetamine before birth.
  • Having sepsis and/or low blood pressure (hypotension).
  • Having patent ductus arteriosis, a congenital heart defect.


  1. Thilo EH, Rosenberg AA (2009). Necrotizing enterocolitis section of The newborn infant. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 36–37. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.
  2. Berseth CL, Poenaru D (2005). Necrotizing enterocolitis and short bowel syndrome. In HW Taeusch et al., eds., Avery's Diseases of the Newborn, 8th ed., pp. 1123–1133. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders.

Last Updated: May 5, 2009

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