Searching for causes of necrotising enterocolitis

N. T. Longford and C. Battersby


Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) is a disease of the gastrointestinal tract afflicting preterm-born infants in the first few weeks of their lives. We estimate the effect of changing the feeding regimen of infants in their first 14 postnatal days by analysing the data from the UK National Neonatal Research Database. We avoid some problems with drawing causal inferences from observational data by reducing the analysis to the infants who spent the first 14 postnatal days (or longer) in neonatal care and for whom NEC was not suspected in this period. This reduction enables us to use summaries of the feeding regimen in this period as background variables in a potential outcomes framework. The results inform the design of a randomised clinical trial for preventing NEC, and the choice of its active treatment(s) in particular.
October 2016