How Common is NEC in Babies?

February 28, 2022 | By Riddle & Brantley Accident Injury Lawyers
How Common is NEC in Babies?

What's the Risk of Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Infants?

Necrotizing enterocolitis, known commonly as NEC, has been having a significant moment in the media lately thanks to various baby formula NEC lawsuits filed against popular baby formula manufacturers. As a result, consumers are drawing attention to the risk of formula-fed babies developing the condition, and many studies support their concerns. But what is NEC, and how common is it in babies?

We’ll explore some of the research surrounding NEC and its possible causes so you can better understand the risks it may pose to children and infants.

How Common is Necrotizing Entercolitis (NEC) in Babies?

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is relatively rare in babies, but premature infants fed cow's milk-based formula may be at higher risk.

If you’re wondering how common NEC is in babies, the answer is not very. However, the babies with the highest risk for NEC are infants born prematurely.

How Common is NEC in Premature Infants?

Premature infants are at higher risk for developing necrotizing entercolitis. NEC occurs in roughly 1 of every 1,000 premature infants, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

How Common is NEC in Full-Term Infants?

For full-term babies, the risk is much lower. The Cleveland Clinic reports that NEC occurs in roughly 1 in every 10,000 full-term infants.

What is NEC?

NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis) is a condition that develops in infants where “tissue in the large intestine (colon) gets inflamed. This inflammation damages and kills some tissue in [the] baby’s colon,” according to Stanford Children’s Health. This inflammation can then cause ruptures in the intestine. If the intestine ruptures, it can allow intestinal bacteria to leak into the intestinal wall or abdomen, which causes pain, infections, and sometimes death.

Symptoms of NEC include:

  • a swollen, red, or tender belly
  • trouble feeding
  • food staying in the stomach longer than expected
  • constipation
  • diarrhea and/or dark or bloody stools
  • being less active or lethargic
  • a low or unstable body temperature
  • green vomit
  • apnea
  • bradycardia
  • hypotension

If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms, please contact your pediatrician or another healthcare professional immediately.

Does NEC Cause Lifelong Problems?

A study done on the long-term effects of NEC revealed that while many babies fully recover, NEC can cause a variety of long-term health effects in some of the children who recover from the initial condition.

While the full lifetime effects are not known, babies diagnosed with NEC can suffer from a variety of long-term or subsequent health problems, including:

  • neurodevelopmental delay
  • failure to thrive
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • gastrointestinal strictures
  • gastrointestinal adhesions
  • cholestasis
  • short bowel syndrome
  • intestinal failure

How Do Babies Get NEC?

While there is no single clear cause of NEC, many doctors and researchers believe that premature babies are at a higher risk for developing NEC because of their weakened circulatory system. Their weakened circulatory system means they can move blood less effectively through the body, which in turn weakens things like their lungs and digestive systems.

This can lead to preterm infants digesting food less effectively, which is why many researchers now believe that there is a link between babies who are fed cow’s milk-based formula developing NEC versus those who were breastfed, as the formula babies may have a harder time breaking down the formula.

Do Similac and Enfamil cause NEC?

Similac and Enfamil both manufacture and sell bovine-based (cow’s milk) formulas. Multiple studies have found potential links between infants fed bovine-based formulas and a higher risk for developing NEC.

For instance, a study published in the 1990s in The Lancet found that infants who were fed bovine-based formulas were up to ten times more likely to develop NEC than infants who were breastfed.

Studies by the National Institute of Health, the Journal of Pediatric Research, and the British Medical Journal have also supported these findings.

NEC Lawsuits Against Baby Formula Manufacturers

Since these findings have been published and more infants have been diagnosed with NEC, baby formula lawsuits filed against manufacturers like Similac and Enfamil are on the rise. Various Enfamil lawsuits and Similac lawsuits allege that not only were these manufacturers aware of the higher risk of NEC in preterm babies who were given bovine-based formulas but also that they failed to adequately inform the public of the risks.

If your infant was fed cow’s milk-based baby formula (including specific formula manufactured by Similac or Enfamil) and later developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), call 1-800-525-7111 for a FREE, no-obligation consultation.

You may be entitled to compensation and you (and your infant) deserve justice. Call 1-800-525-7111 today and let’s review your NEC baby formula claim.