The intestinal tract of the fetus matures rapidly in the third trimester of the pregnancy. The premature infant has decreased intestinal motility, limited digestion, absorption and excretion, and poor intestinal barrier defense. These limitations place the infant at high risk for acute intestinal injury, necrotizing enterocolitis. This article reviews the development of the gastrointestinal tract in the fetus, the barriers to feeding the high risk, premature infant, and the most serious intestinal disease, necrotizing enterocolitis.

This content is only available as a PDF.