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Chin Med J (Engl). 2013;126(9):1771-8.

Intestinal microcirculatory dysfunction and neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis.

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Department of Pediatric Surgery, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College and Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei 430030, China.



Based on the observation that coagulation necrosis occurs in the majority of neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) patients, it is clear that intestinal ischemia is a contributing factor to the pathogenesis of NEC. However, the published studies regarding the role of intestinal ischemia in NEC are controversial. The aim of this paper is to review the current studies regarding intestinal microcirculatory dysfunction and NEC, and try to elucidate the exact role of intestinal microcirculatory dysfunction in NEC.


The studies cited in this review were mainly obtained from articles listed in Medline and PubMed. The search terms used were "intestinal microcirculatory dysfunction" and "neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis".


Mainly original milestone articles and critical reviews written by major pioneer investigators in the field were selected.


Immature regulatory control of mesentery circulation makes the neonatal intestinal microvasculature vulnerable. When neonates are subjected to stress, endothelial cell dysfunction occurs and results in vasoconstriction of arterioles, inflammatory cell infiltration and activation in venules, and endothelial barrier disruption in capillaries. The compromised vasculature increases circulation resistance and therefore decreases intestinal perfusion, and may eventually progress to intestinal necrosis.


Intestinal ischemia plays an important role through the whole course of NEC. New therapeutic agents targeting intestinal ischemia, like HB-EGF, are promising therapeutic agents for the treatment of NEC.

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