What are the Causes of Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious intestinal disease that primarily affects premature infants as well as newborns. According to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), one to five percent of intensive care unit (ICU) admissions are related to a NEC diagnosis. NEC generally develops in babies who are formula fed within the first two weeks following their birth. The potentially fatal disease develops when the intestines become damaged and start to decay. As a result, the intestines become significantly inflamed, and in severe cases, the injury can lead to infection, sepsis, and death if it is not treated rapidly and properly.

It is important for parents to know the effects and causes of NEC. It is widely believed that the following factors can cause NEC:

  • Underdeveloped intestines, which is seen in premature babies and newborns.
  • Little to no oxygen or blood flow to the intestines during a difficult delivery.
  • Abundance of bacteria.
  • Viral or bacterial infection.
  • Formula feedings.
  • Babies who received blood transfusions.

In some cases, there are NEC outbreaks in hospitals. Although the disease is not contagious, an infective bacterium or virus can spread in the ICU if the hospital is not sanitary and the newborns are not properly cared for.

Additionally, premature infants are highly susceptible to disease and have inadequate digestive and immune systems, and a challenging delivery can cause NEC or other birth injuries. During a complicated delivery, the baby may be deprived oxygen, which may cause their intestines to weaken and become vulnerable to harmful bacteria.

What are the Signs of NEC?

It is crucial that parents and health care providers know the telltale signs of NEC. Immediately treating the disease is key to a good prognosis and recovery. Some critical symptoms of NEC include the following:

  • Bloated and painful stomach
  • Vomiting and green bile
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Trouble during feedings
  • Lethargy
  • Unstable body temperature
  • Breathing issues

If health care providers fail to recognize or ignore the signs of NEC, they may be liable for medical malpractice in certain circumstances. If parents suspect a health care provider’s negligent actions caused or contributed to their infant’s NEC, they should speak to a medical malpractice lawyer.

What are the Treatment Options?

Health care providers will likely use X-rays to examine the intestines and gas patterns for signs of NEC. On the images, air bubbles might show on the walls of the intestines or in the veins to the liver. In some cases, a doctor will insert a needle in the abdomen to see if there is a build-up of fluid. Blood tests will also be conducted to look at the levels of white blood cells to see if there is an infection. If NEC is present, there are several treatment options.

The treatment plan depends on the severity of the NEC, the overall health of the baby, and the prematurity of the infant. In most cases, surgery will not be needed to treat NEC if the disease is quickly detected. The doctor may do the following to treat NEC:

  • Stop feedings
  • Remove fluid build-up
  • Start intravenous fluids
  • Start antibiotics
  • Use oxygen machine
  • Isolate the baby
  • Monitor progression with X-rays

If the NEC is severe, a surgical procedure may be needed to remove the damaged areas. In most cases, NEC will clear between five and seven days.

Can I File a Medical Malpractice Suit for NEC?

Health care providers should be aware of the first signs of NEC, as this is critical to prevent the disease from worsening or spreading if there is a virus or bacteria involved. Failure to provide necessary care to patients can result in a medical malpractice claim. A lawsuit may be filed if the NEC was not diagnosed and treated and injury or death resulted because of this negligence.

Medical malpractice can occur if there were mistakes in the diagnosis, surgery, medications, and other forms of care. However, a plaintiff has the burden of proof to establish that medical negligence caused the NEC.

What Damages are Available in a Medical Malpractice Suit?

Plaintiffs should learn about what must be proved in a medical malpractice suit and how related laws operate in their state. In Illinois, medical malpractice victims have two years from the date they discovered the injury or should have known about the injury to file a lawsuit. If the injury was discovered at a later date, it is important to know that a medical malpractice lawsuit cannot be filed after four years after the date the medical error occurred. If the victim is under 18 years old, they have eight years to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit from the start of the injury. This is the same if one is filing on behalf of a victim who is under 18 years old. In both cases, the claim cannot be filed when or after the victim turns 22 years old.

To prove medical malpractice, the following must be shown:

  • The health care entity owed a duty of care.
  • The duty of care was breached.
  • The breach caused an injury or death.

The standard of care is determined by whether a reasonable doctor would have followed the same medical procedures as the ones that were implemented. An affidavit of merit must also be attached to the plaintiff’s case. This document states that the plaintiff consulted with a health care professional who meets certain criteria. A written report from the health care professional must also be obtained.

If bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit is successful, the victim can recover compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Household services

There are additional damage awards as well. In Illinois, there is no cap on damages in a medical malpractice suit. For help with a NEC case, a family should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.

St. Louis NEC Lawyers at Cates Mahoney, LLC Help Families Emotionally and Financially Recover After a NEC Diagnosis

NEC can cause severe damage and costly medical bills. In some cases, NEC is caused by reckless health care entities. If your infant’s NEC or birth injury was caused by medical mistakes, the St. Louis NEC lawyers at Cates Mahoney, LLC can review your case. Contact us online or call us at 618-277-3644 for a free consultation. Located in Swansea, Illinois, we serve clients throughout St. Louis, Belleville, East St. Louis, Edwardsville, Granite City, Waterloo, Chester, Carbondale, St. Clair County, Madison County, Monroe County, Randolph County, and other regions throughout southern Illinois.