The most common gastrointestinal emergency in the newborn is necrotizing enterocolitis. Premature babies are the most likely victims, but it also occurs in full-term infants. Although great strides have been made in elucidating some of the factors responsible for necrotizing enterocolitis, such as intestinal ischemia, bacterial overgrowth, and feeding dysfunction, the exact etiology is as yet unclear. The timing and indications for surgery differ from institution to institution, but the long-term outcome is similar in most large series. The overall mortality rate remains about 20% to 40%, and of the survivors, about one half seem to have no sequelae, the remaining infants having neurologic and gastrointestinal deficits of various degrees of significance.
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