Prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants - an updated review.World J Clin Pediatr 2019; 8(2):23-32WJ
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is among the most common and devastating diseases encountered in premature infants, yet the true etiology continues to be poorly understood despite decades of research. Recently, gut bacterial dysbiosis has been proposed as a risk factor for the development of NEC. Based on this theory, several best clinical practices designed to reduce the risk of NEC have been proposed and/or implemented. This review summarizes the results of recent clinical trials and meta-analyses that support some of the existing clinical practices for reducing the risk of NEC in premature infants. It is evident that human milk feeding can reduce the incidence of NEC. While most of the studies demonstrated that probiotic supplementation can significantly reduce the incidence of NEC in premature infants, there are still some concerns regarding the quality, safety, optimal dosage, and treatment duration of probiotic preparations. Antibiotic prophylaxis does not reduce the incidence of NEC, and prolonged initial empirical use of antibiotics might in fact increase the risk of NEC for high-risk premature infants. Lastly, standardized feeding protocols are strongly recommended, both for prevention of postnatal growth restriction and NEC.