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Semin Pediatr Surg. 2008 Nov;17(4):255-65. doi: 10.1053/j.sempedsurg.2008.07.004.

Necrotizing enterocolitis--bench to bedside: novel and emerging strategies.

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Department of Surgery, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, and the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90027, USA.


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a devastating illness that predominantly affects premature neonates. The mortality associated with this disease has changed very little during the last two decades. Neonates with NEC fall into two categories: those who respond to medical management alone and those who require surgical treatment. The disease distribution may be focal, multifocal, or panintestinal. Surgical treatment should therefore be based on disease presentation. Recent studies have added significant insight into our understanding of the pathogenesis of NEC. Several groups have shown that upregulation of nitric oxide plays an integral role in the development of epithelial injury in NEC. As a result, some treatment strategies have been aimed at abrogating the toxic effects of nitric oxide. In addition, several investigators have reported the cytoprotective effect of epidermal growth factor, which is found in high levels in breast milk, on the intestinal epithelium. Thus, fortification of infant formula with specific growth factors could soon become a preferred strategy to accelerate intestinal maturation in the premature neonate to prevent the development of NEC. One of the most devastating complications of NEC is the development of short bowel syndrome (SBS). The current treatment of SBS involves intestinal lengthening procedures or bowel transplantation. A novel emerging method for treating SBS involves the use of tissue-engineered intestine. In laboratory animals, tissue-engineered small intestine has been shown to be successful in treating intestinal failure. This article examines recent data regarding surgical treatment options for NEC as well as emerging treatment modalities.

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