Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) has been recognized for well over 5 decades yet remains the most common life-threatening surgical emergency in the newborn. The incidence of NEC has decreased steadily in preterm and very-low-birthweight infants over several decades and is typically uncommon in term newborns and infants with a birthweight greater than 2,500 g. Evidence accumulating during the past decade, however, suggests that practitioners should consider NEC in this broader subset of term infants with chromosomal and congenital anomalies complicated by heart or gastrointestinal defects when signs and symptoms of feeding intolerance, abdominal illness, or sepsis are present. The short- and long-term consequences of NEC are devastating in all infants, and although early disease recognition and treatment are essential, promoting human milk feeding as a primary modality in prevention is critical. This article highlights our current understanding of the pathophysiology, the clinical presentation, the risk factors for NEC in term infants compared with premature infants, and the treatment of NEC and discusses strategies in the prevention of NEC. Finally, we review the long-term consequences of NEC and the importance of primary care practitioners in the long-term care of infants after hospitalization for NEC.

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