Necrotizing enterocolitis is an overwhelming gastrointestinal emergency that primarily afflicts premature infants born weighing less than 1500 g. Despite years of investigation, the etiology remains unclear, and accepted prevention and treatment strategies are lacking. Studies published over the last year have provided new insight into several aspects of this complex disease. In this review, novel information is presented on (1) the epidemiology; (2) methods of early diagnosis, such as abdominal magnetic resonance imaging; (3) the importance of risk factors, including assessment of feeding strategies and role of bacterial colonization; (4) the pathophysiology, highlighting experimental and clinical trials evaluating the role of inflammatory mediators and growth factors on the disease; (5) preventive strategies, such as anaerobic bacterial supplementation; and (6) surgical interventions, including peritoneal drainage. Understanding some of these important aspects of necrotizing enterocolitis may help improve the outlook of patients with this dreaded disease. Although the incidence of neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and the mortality stemming from this disease have not significantly improved over the last 30 years, there is exciting new information that may significantly improve the outlook of patients with this overwhelming intestinal emergency in the near future. © 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.