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Identification of risk factors for necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants : how race, gender, and maternal health status contribute

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library
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  • Biology
  • Design


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is defined as a gastrointestinal emergency affecting primarily preterm infants. While there is no one theory that is accepted regarding the etiology of NEC, most researchers have agreed that the pathophysiology of NEC is multifactorial. Antepartum problems have been implicated in some studies, but further investigation is required to determine if factors related to maternal history contribute to the pathophysiologic cascade that causes necrotizing enterocolitis. Contributing factors related to genetic and biological characteristics of the preterm infant and care of the preterm infant, have been identified in previous studies. This study utilized a retrospective design to examine the effect of infant and maternal variables on the development of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm infants. It also examined the relationship between certain maternal and preterm infant variables to determine if NEC occurs more frequently in preterm infants whose mothers have specific antepartum problems. This study found that Black women experienced more preeclampsia and maternal infection than White and Hispanic women; however, these antepartum conditions did not contribute to NEC in the preterm infant. Preterm infants of Black mothers who with chronic hypertension were more likely to develop NEC than Black preterm infants whose mothers did not have chronic hypertension. There were no racial or gender differences in the development of NEC; however, infants who developed NEC tended to have significantly more infections and received more packed red blood cell (PRBC) transfusions than infants who did not develop NEC. Black males received significantly more transfusions and had more infections than Black females and White or Hispanic preterm infants of both genders.

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