Nutrition in necrotizing enterocolitis and following intestinal resection

Jocelyn Ou, Cathleen M. Courtney, Allie E. Steinberger, Maria E. Tecos, Brad W. Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


This review aims to discuss the role of nutrition and feeding practices in necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), NEC prevention, and its complications, including surgical treatment. A thorough PubMed search was performed with a focus on meta-analyses and randomized controlled trials when available. There are several variables in nutrition and the feeding of preterm infants with the intention of preventing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Starting feeds later rather than earlier, advancing feeds slowly and continuous feeds have not been shown to prevent NEC and breast milk remains the only effective prevention strategy. The lack of medical treatment options for NEC often leads to disease progression requiring surgical resection. Following resection, intestinal adaptation occurs, during which villi lengthen and crypts deepen to increase the functional capacity of remaining bowel. The effect of macronutrients on intestinal adaptation has been extensively studied in animal models. Clinically, the length and portion of intestine that is resected may lead to patients requiring parenteral nutrition, which is also reviewed here. There remain significant gaps in knowledge surrounding many of the nutritional aspects of NEC and more research is needed to determine optimal feeding approaches to prevent NEC, particularly in infants younger than 28 weeks and <1000 grams. Additional research is also needed to identify biomarkers reflecting intestinal recovery following NEC diagnosis individualize when feedings should be safely resumed for each patient.

Original languageEnglish
Article number520
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2020


  • Breast milk
  • Hormones
  • Intestinal adaptation
  • Intestinal resection
  • Microbiome
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Parenteral nutrition
  • Prematurity
  • Short bowel syndrome


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