Necrotizing enterocolitis (“NEC”) is among the most devastating and common gastrointestinal diseases affecting babies. It is a serious, often deadly, condition involving an infection of the baby’s intestinal tract, which can result in necrosis of the wall of the intestine. If the intestinal wall dies, it will perforate or rupture, allowing the baby’s fecal matter to spill into its peritoneum, resulting in serious infection or death. When necrosis has progressed to the point of bowel perforation, the baby requires urgent surgery to resect the dead portion of bowel and to drain and wash out the infection. Even if treated, NEC can lead to harmful and permanent injuries to the child.
Premature babies (those born before full-term) are at a greater risk for developing NEC. This is because the child’s digestive system is not yet fully developed. In addition to increased risk of NEC, preemies often require more intensive monitoring and care for a host of other conditions that require them to stay for at least some period of time in a neonatal intensive care unit (“NICU”).
If your baby is suffering from necrotizing enterocolitis due to a doctor’s failure to provide adequate care, consider speaking with a seasoned birth injury attorney. A Portland necrotizing enterocolitis lawyer is here to help.
What Is A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit?
NICUs are classified based on the level of care they provide. At the highest level, a level IV NICU provides 24-hour coverage with qualified neonatal experts, access to pediatric surgery, and the most advanced, state-of-the-art medical equipment. (There are no level IV NICU facilities in the states of Maine.)
At the lower level, a level I NICU will have a neonatologist that provides overall management and supervision, but who is not on-site at all times. A level I NICU will not likely have access to a pediatric surgeon or the latest state-of-the-art medical equipment necessary to care for the most acutely ill newborns. An acutely ill neonate will likely need to be transferred to a higher level NICU.
Necrotizing Enterocolitis Management
Whatever its level, a NICU must monitor newborns closely for any signs or symptoms of NEC. The key to treating NEC successfully is to identify it early, before it progresses to the point where intervention can no longer prevent bowel necrosis and perforation. Once concern for NEC occurs, providers should be obtaining regular blood work and abdominal imaging to confirm or rule out this diagnosis.
When NEC is diagnosed, the standard of care requires following a well-defined “NEC protocol.” First, “bowel rest” is achieved by discontinuing all feeds through the digestive tract for a period of seven or more days. During this time, the baby can be provided nourishment directly into the bloodstream by IV. Allowing the digestive tract and bowel to rest reduces the risk of NEC progressing and worsening.
The NEC protocol also requires initiation of antibiotic therapy to attack and kill the bacteria causing the NEC. The newborn should be monitored closely with serial imaging and blood work. At the first sign of any bowel perforation on imaging, the newborn should be considered for surgery to resect the damaged bowel before it ruptures and leads to worsening infection and sepsis. If someone has further questions about necrotizing enterocolitis and if they are eligible to file a lawsuit, they should speak with a Portland attorney as soon as possible.
Necrotizing Enterocolitis Formula Cases
Although the risks of developing NEC exists for premature babies even if they are not fed formula, there is now significant evidence that human milk, particularly mom’s own breastmilk, provides protective benefits against developing NEC and other infections.
By contrast, formula is typically made from bovine (cow) milk. Higher-risk newborns who are fed formula are at even greater risk for developing NEC than those who are fed human milk. As a Portland necrotizing enterocolitis attorney can further explain, the baby formula lawsuits alleged the manufacturers of formula marketed their products in a manner which actively concealed these added risks.
Call a Portland Necrotizing Enterocolitis Attorney to Learn More
Depending on the circumstances, parents of babies who suffer injuries from NEC may have one of two potential claims. First, it may be possible to pursue a claim against the manufacturer of baby formula fed to the infant by the hospital. Second, whether or not the baby was fed formula, there may be a claim against the hospital if it failed to properly monitor the baby for signs and symptoms of NEC and take appropriate, early, action to diagnose and treat it. Call Gideon Asen LLC to discuss your case with a Portland necrotizing enterocolitis lawyer today.