Necrotizing Enterocolitis Injury Attorneys in Oklahoma City

Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) Injury Attorneys in Oklahoma City

If your preterm child developed NEC from cow’s milk-based formulas, we want to help

Many premature babies need medical help in order to survive. This help usually includes nutritional help so the newborns can gain the strength they need to function and mature. Often, medical care providers rely on baby formulas to supplement the nutrition premature babies receive through nursing with their mothers. Physicians and parents need to be aware that some well-known cows’ milk-based formulas have been linked to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Left untreated, NEC may be deadly or cause severe medical disorders including organ failure.

Many manufacturers and healthcare providers fail to inform new parents and others that these cow’s milk-based formulas increase the risk of NEC. Two of the better-known manufacturers who products are known to cause NEC are Similac and Enfamil. At Cunningham & Mears, our Oklahoma City personal injury lawyers are skilled at filing product liability claims against manufacturers and medical malpractice claims against physicians – especially when they fail to inform parents about known dangers. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

How can we help?

What is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)?

According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, is an intestinal tract disease “in which the tissue lining the intestine becomes inflamed, dies, and can slough off.” NEC generally affects preterm infants or infants who are already ill. NEC usually occurs before your newborn leaves the hospital.

The NIH states that newborns who are born preterm (before 37 weeks) or weigh less than 5.5 pounds have an increased risk of NEC. About 480,000 infants are born prematurely each year. NEC affects about 9,000 infants each year. With technological advances, more low birth weight infants survive – increasing the risk of NEC. Between 15% and 40% of infants with NEC do die.

Baby Drinking Formula Bottle

What are the symptoms of NEC?

NIH states that when the infant’s tissue lining of the intestine becomes deceased or dies, bacteria in the intestine “can then penetrate the dead or decaying intestinal tissue, infect the wall of the intestine, and enter the bloodstream, causing systemic or bloodstream infection.” These conditions then inflame the surviving tissue – preventing the infant from digesting food and moving food through the digestive tract.

NEC symptoms can appear suddenly or over a few days. Common NEC symptoms include:

  • An inability to digest food due to feeding difficulties
  • Abdominal distention - stomach swelling or bloating
  • Red, blue, or other stomach discoloration
  • Abdominal pain when someone touches the infant
  • Stool changes, including blood, frequency, and volume changes
  • Diarrhea often containing visible signs of blood
  • Vomiting of yellow-greenish liquids
  • Fatigue
  • Not being able to keep a normal temperature
  • Low heart rate
  • Apnea – a temporary cessation of breathing

In severe cases, the infant’s blood pressure and pulse may decrease. Infants may develop peritonitis or go into shock. Emergency surgery may be necessary to repair a hole or perforation of the intestine. Some infants may require a respirator or a breathing machine.

How is NEC diagnosed?

NEC is usually confirmed by X-rays after symptoms appear: “If the X-ray reveals a “bubbly” appearance in the wall of the intestine or air outside the infant’s intestine (in the peritoneal cavity) the diagnosis is confirmed.1 Other X-ray signs include air in a vein of the liver called the portal vein, swollen intestines, or a lack of gas in the abdomen.”

Other tests include examining the stool for blood, checking the baby’s blood for infection, and other tests.

How is NEC treated?

NIH states that the treatments vary depending on the stage of the disease:

  • Stage 1. NEC is suspected based on the infant’s symptoms.
  • Stage 2. There is a diagnosis of NEC and specific additional symptoms such as abdominal pain on touch, slightly lower blood platelet levels, and other symptoms.
  • Stage 3. The infant has advanced NEC which includes stage 1 and stage 2 symptoms – and blood clot formation, “a lowered number of certain white blood cells, inflamed abdominal tissue, and other symptoms.

Stage 1 treatments include “vigorous supportive care, resting the intestine by feeding through an intravenous tube instead of the mouth, and additional monitoring tests.” Stage 2 treatment combines stage 1 treatment and the use of antibiotics. Stage 3 treatments may include surgery.  Some babies may have to have part or all of their bowels removed. Other treatments may also be necessary at each stage.

What are the causes of NEC?

The NIH states that NEC may be due to an immature digestive system, dangerous bacteria, an inability to digest food, and many other causes.

A growing cause of concern is that common cow’s milk-based (bovine) formulas are causing NEC. Bovine formulas are often used to supplement the nutrition provided by human milk.

Research does indicate a connection between baby formula and NEC. The study found that in exclusively bovine formula-fed babies, the confirmed disease was 6-10 times more common than in those fed breast milk alone, and 3 times more common than in those who received formula plus breast milk.

According to Science Daily, in 2011, Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and other researchers found that for extremely premature babies:

  • Who received only human milk, just 1 in 29 infants developed NEC. That baby recovered without surgery. Babies who were fed human milk tolerated feeding better. On average, these babies could be taken off supplement IV nutrition after 27 days.
  • Who were fed a cows milk-based baby formula, 5 of 24 infants developed NEC. 4 of those 5 infants required surgery. On average, babies in this group needed an average of 36 days before they could be taken off of supplemental IV nutrition.

According to Elizabeth Cristofalo, M.D., a neonatologist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, "The stark differences in the risk of NEC, its complications, and the need for surgery between babies who receive human donor milk and those who get formula signal the need for a change in feeding practices across neonatal intensive care units.”

In 2021, a study published in Pediatrics & Child Health concluded that babies born before 33 weeks were at an increased risk of developing NEC, and of dying from the disease.

Which formulas are bovine (cow’s milk) based?

About 4 in 5 baby formulas are cow’s milk-based. The milk is modified to make it easier and safer (but based on the studies, not completely safe) for infants. Popular brands include:

  • Enfamil
  • Similac
  • Baby’s Only
  • Bobbie
  • Earth’s Best
  • Gerber
  • Go & Grow
  • Happy Baby Organics
  • Holle
  • Kendamil
  • Lebenswert
  • Loulouka
  • Parents’ Choice

Who is liable if my newborn develops NEC from a bovine baby formula?

There are two general types of personal injury or wrongful death claims our lawyers file if a newborn develops NEC or dies from NEC:

  • A product liability claim. The manufacturers of the baby formula have a general duty to ensure the safety of their products. If your child develops NEC, we file a product liability claim against the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of this defective formula. We investigate whether any recalls have been filed (it’s not necessary to have a recall to file your claim). If there is a recall, we examine if the manufacturer warned consumers about the known danger.
  • A medical malpractice claim. Pediatricians and other healthcare providers may be liable if they fail to warn parents about the danger of NEC if they use a bovine formula – or fail to warn the parents of better alternatives – such as human milk or non-bovine cow’s milk-based formulas.

There are currently lawsuits against Abbot Laboratories and Mead Johnson & Company.

Do you have an NEC injury lawyer near me?

Our office is located at 5104 N Francis Ave., Suite 102, Oklahoma City, OK 73118

Speak with an experienced Oklahoma City injury lawyer if your newborn developed NEC

If your infant develops any birth injury including NEC or dies due to NEC, call our seasoned Oklahoma City birth injury lawyers today. We have 105 years of combined experience fighting for children and families. Our lawyers have an impressive record of jury verdicts and negotiated settlements. To learn if you have a birth injury claim, call us at  (405) 232-1212, or schedule an appointment by completing our contact form. Our office is located in Oklahoma City. We represent parents on a contingency fee basis.