Failure to Diagnose: The Stages of Necrotizing Enterocolitis


Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) occurs when a portion of the bowel dies, and is most common in newborn infants. Risk factors include prematurity, heart disease, and birth asphyxia. Because the risk factors are well-established in the medical literature, doctors and nurses should be on the lookout for any of the symptoms of the disease in at-risk infants.

Parents should also be educated about symptoms, as the disease onset often occurs after the baby is out of the hospital. Common symptoms include failure to thrive (the baby not gaining weight), abdominal distension, and blood in stools. Parents should be particularly vigilant during the week of most likely NEC onset, which is when the baby is an equal amount of weeks old to how many weeks premature the baby was born.

The significance of NEC is rated on a scale of 1 to 3, with 3 being the most severe. Bell’s stage 1 is the most minor version of the disease, with only mild amounts of abdominal distension. If the disease is caught at this stage and treated promptly, the likelihood of almost full recovery is reasonably high, and survival rates are in the 80 to 90 percent range if the disease is discovered quickly.

Bell’s stage 2 and 3 are much more problematic, and will almost always incur long-term health consequences. Stage 2 can be difficult to separate from Stage 1, though it does have troubling symptoms such as lack of bowel sounds indicating cell death in the area. Stage 3 is usually accompanied by extremely noticeable swelling of the abdomen, and disease at this stage usually requires corrective surgery.

If your child suffered from Necrotizing Enterocolitis, and the medical establishment failed to provide guidance or a prompt diagnosis, please consider consulting with an experienced attorney. With the risk factors for NEC so clearly defined, there is no reason for diagnosis and treatment to be delayed.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.