Necrotizing enterocolitis in full-term infants.

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DOI: 10.1016/s0022-3468(03)00187-8


Objectives: Although necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is primarily a disease of prematurity, full-term infants account for approximately 10% of cases. Previous studies have reported conflicting results regarding NEC in full-term (FT) versus preterm (PT) infants. A review of all infants diagnosed with NEC at our institution over the past 3 decades was performed to identify factors associated with this disease in full-term neonates.

Methods: The charts of all infants with definitive NEC from January 1, 1972 through January 1, 2001 were reviewed. Two hundred seventy-seven patients made up the study group: 251 PT and 26 FT infants. Data regarding demographics, clinical presentation, management, outcome, and other variables were collected. FT and PT infants were compared.

Results: Mean gestational age and birth weight in the FT group were 39.3 weeks and 3,132 g versus 30.2 weeks and 1,396 g for PT infants. Apgar scores were similar. Mean age at diagnosis was 5 days in FT versus 13 days in PT neonates (P <.001). Enteral nutrition was initiated earlier in FT infants (1.6 days v 3.1 days; P <.001), and FT infants were discharged an average of 14 days earlier than PT infants (P value not significant). Factors predisposing to NEC were found in 62% (16 of 26) of patients-heart disease in 6 infants and other conditions in 10 patients. Cardiac disease was found significantly more often (23% v 10%; P =.027) in FT infants. Survival rate was 65% (17 of 26) in the FT group versus 69% (173 of 251) in the PT infants (P value not significant).

Conclusions: FT infants with NEC differ from their PT counterparts in several distinct ways. FT neonates had NEC at a significantly earlier age, perhaps owing to earlier initiation of feeding. There was a correlation between age at which feeding was begun and age of onset of NEC. Additionally, an association between cardiac disease and development of NEC in term infants was shown. Predisposing factors were present in a majority of FT infants. In contrast to other reports, the outcome of NEC in full-term infants was no better than for PT infants.

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Journal of pediatric surgery





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MeSH Keywords

Age of Onset; Apgar Score; Birth Weight; Causality; Enteral Nutrition; Enterocolitis, Necrotizing; Heart Defects, Congenital; Humans; Infant, Newborn; Infant, Premature; Infant, Premature, Diseases; Prognosis; Survival Rate


Necrotizing enterocolitis; NEC

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