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Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a devastating intra-abdominal emergency in the newborn period. The disease involves bowel wall inflammation, ischemic necrosis, eventual perforation, and the need for urgent surgical intervention. Unrecognized or left untreated, the neonate can decompensate quickly, often progressing to shock, multisystem organ failure, and eventual death. During the past several years, a number of basic science and clinical trials have been established in an attempt to understand the pathophysiology of NEC. As many researchers feel that NEC develops as an uncontrolled inflammatory response that leads to intestinal ischemia, a large number of studies have been focused on the inflammatory cascade and the role that cytokines play within that cascade. Although a large amount of data has been generated from these studies, the events leading to the ischemic injury of the intestine are still not fully understood. This article will therefore focus on the key cytokines involved with NEC, in an attempt to present the current literature and studies that support their involvement.

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