Treatments for NEC usually begin by stopping feedings and removing gas from the bowel by inserting a small tube into the stomach. Intravenous fluid is used to replace the formula or breast milk. Doctors will then start the baby on antibiotics to combat any infections, and monitor the baby’s condition with x-rays and blood and blood gas tests. The baby’s stools will be checked for blood, and if the abdomen is so swollen that it interferes with the infant’s breathing, extra oxygen or a ventilator may be brought in to help the baby breathe.
Most infants with NEC can be treated medically, and do not require surgery. In some cases, babies who respond the treatments can be back on regular feedings within 72 hours, although feedings are usually withheld for a week or 10 days.
However, in cases of severe NEC, surgery may be necessary, particularly if there is a hole in the intestines or inflammation of the abdominal wall. The dead bowel tissue will be removed and a colostomy or ileostomy is performed. Then, several weeks or months later, when the infection and inflammation have healed, the bowel is reconnected.