The survival rate for NEC is around 44%. This means that even with the medical advancement in neonatal care, survival rates in infants with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) stays low and mortality among infants with the condition remains high.
These survival rates, however, may be affected by several factors, including the severity of the disease, immune defenses, and genetic predisposition. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious gastrointestinal disease that mostly affects premature and medically fragile babies. Although the exact cause of NEC is not known, experts in the medical field believe that aside from prematurity, formula feeding is another key risk factor for NEC.
In fact, certain baby formulas have been recently linked to the potentially life-threatening disease. This prompted several parents and guardians to file a NEC lawsuit against the makers of Enfamil and Similac after these baby formulas were found to have caused injuries or death among many premature infants.
More cases are being filed as we speak and the number of lawsuits are expected to steadily increase through the end of 2023.
Read on to learn more about necrotizing enterocolitis and how dangerous the condition can get for NEC infants.
How fast does NEC progress?
NEC progresses at a fast rate and an infant can go from displaying the first symptoms to a full-blown disease and even death within only 24 to 48 hours. Because of the rate in which NEC progresses, early diagnosis at its first stage is crucial.
In general, it is believed that NEC has three stages in terms of the severity of the illness. Stages I and II can be medically managed while stage III can only be managed surgically. However, certain studies believe that this staging system is outdated and suggest to instead use the term medical NEC to conditions with well-defined clinical symptoms and surgical NEC to refer to cases where the intestine has already been perforated.
Necrotizing enterocolitis typically develops within two to six weeks after birth of a premature infant who is being fed with cow’s milk-based formula as opposed to human breast milk. In NEC, severe inflammation occurs in a baby’s small or large intestines, which can result in tissue death or necrosis.
In severe NEC cases, a perforation may form in the infant’s intestine. This can cause bacteria to leak into the abdomen or bloodstream and may lead to a serious infectious disease called sepsis.
Who is more likely to get NEC?
Premature babies with a birth weight of less than 1500 g are more likely to get NEC. Term infants who develop NEC are usually born with specific risk factors, such as medical conditions like congenital heart disease, low blood pressure, and sepsis.
According to statistics, 1 in 10 very low birth weight babies are expected to develop the condition. NEC also affects thousands of babies annually in the United States. The disease is much more common in very premature infants with very low birth weight because oxygen-carrying blood has a harder time reaching the intestines in premature babies. This reduced blood flow can then lead to damages in the intestinal tissue.
Can a baby survive it?
Necrotizing enterocolitis is a serious disease that is associated with high rates of mortality of up to 66% among infants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even though surgical NEC survival rates are improving, the condition is still a leading cause of overall infant deaths in the country.
Despite treatment, several babies who develop NEC die and those that survive are more likely to suffer from several complications, such as poor growth, short bowel syndrome, and long-term neurodevelopmental impairments.
While the risk of NEC cannot be completely eliminated, it is known that breastfeeding, avoiding the use of antibiotics and acid-blocking agents, as well as administering certain probiotics help decrease the risk of developing the condition.
Does NEC cause lifelong problems?
Necrotizing enterocolitis is a complex intestinal condition that is associated with significant complications. The lifelong problems hat can result from NEC are listed below.
- Slow physical development
- Neurodevelopmental delay
- Short bowel syndrome with or without intestinal failure
- Other gastrointestinal problems, such as adhesions, strictures, cholestasis
The exact mechanism of NEC is widely believed to be related to intestinal inflammation, a premature intestine, and abnormal gut microbial colonization. Currently, it has been shown that a mother’s own milk is an effective protection against NEC compared to formula feeding.
The Link Between Baby Formula and NEC
Premature infants often have trouble breastfeeding right away. This is because they are born with less-developed muscles, nervous systems, and respiratory systems than term infants. This makes it harder for them to latch on and coordinate their breathing and sucking patterns.
In other cases, premature babies may also present with some medical conditions that do not make it possible for them to have human milk. In such instances, doctors may recommend cow’s milk-based formula products or human milk fortifiers for these preterm babies.
However, several studies have indicated that baby formula products lead to a higher incidence of NEC in preterm infants than does human milk. Although infants who are being exclusively fed with breast milk can still develop NEC, the life-threatening disease is much more common in babies who are formula fed.
In fact, several lawsuits have recently been filed by parents against the manufacturers of Enfamil and Similac after they have fed their babies these formula products and the infants developed NEC-related injuries, complications, while others succumbed to the illness after consuming the baby formulas.
Even though the reason why baby formulas may increase the likelihood of an infant to develop NEC is still poorly understood, experts speculate that this may be due to the possibility of cow’s milk formulas proliferating damaging bacteria to a premature infant’s underdeveloped intestines. We all know how preemies do not have the defenses that more developed infants have to protect themselves from these illnesses.
Do you believe your child has NEC?
Some early signs of necrotising enterocolitis in a preterm infant may include vomiting, abdominal tenderness, and decreased bowel sounds. Other symptoms that may show if the disease has progressed already are lethargy, trouble breathing, and temperature instability.
If you happen to notice these signs in your baby, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. The doctor will examine your baby by conducting blood and fecal tests or x-rays. They may also check for swelling, tenderness, and pain in your baby’s abdomen.
Your baby’s doctor may also check for intestinal fluid by inserting a needle into the infant’s abdominal cavity. The presence of fluid in the intestine typically means that there is a hole in the intestine. The standard treatment for NEC is to stop tube or oral feedings. The baby receives nutrients and intravenous (IV) fluids instead. However, if the intestine is severely damaged, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove the dead part of the intestine.
Tragically, cases of severe NEC means that the entire intestine may already be dead. When this happens, the chances of the baby surviving is very low. Babies who manage to survive NEC are known to suffer from lifelong complications due to the condition.
If you have recently fed your preterm infant with a cow’s milk-based formula product and they subsequently developed NEC, have them treated by a doctor first. After that, your next best option is to seek justice for your baby by holding big formula companies accountable for their actions that have endangered your baby.
Injured Consumers Can Hold Manufacturers Liable
Manufacturers of all products marketed in the United States have a legal obligation to keep their products safe for public consumption. However, in case there are risks and dangers associated with their products, they still have a duty to inform consumers about these risks.
But in the case of NEC lawsuits, plaintiffs allege that Enfamil manufacturer Mead Johnson Nutrition and Similac manufacturer Abbott Laboratories, Inc. failed to adequately warn the public about the risk of NEC associated with their formula products. This has resulted in several injuries and deaths in many babies who consumed the baby formulas while the companies rake in big profits from their toxic products.
If you believe your child has developed NEC as a result of consuming baby formula products, you may have a case against its manufacturers. Do not hesitate to contact us today and we will put you in touch with the right NEC lawyer who can evaluate your case and determine if you have grounds for a NEC lawsuit.