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Infants Born to Drug-Abusing Mothers Often Readmitted to Hospital
These babies are often born addicted and have higher risk of breathing, feeding problems, experts say

TUESDAY, Oct. 6, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Newborns with drug withdrawal syndrome are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital than those without the condition, a new study finds.

Drug withdrawal syndrome can occur shortly after birth in babies whose mothers abuse narcotic painkillers during pregnancy. These infants are at increased risk for breathing and feeding problems, seizures and low birth weight, researchers from Vanderbilt University in Nashville explained.

Drug withdrawal syndrome among babies is becoming more of an issue in the United States due to the epidemic of prescription narcotic painkiller abuse, previous studies have reported.

In this study, the researchers reviewed information from more than 750,000 births in New York state between 2006 and 2009.

They found more than 1,600 infants with drug withdrawal syndrome. These babies were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within one month after birth than full-term infants born without complications, the study found.

The most common reason for readmission among infants with drug withdrawal syndrome -- also called neonatal abstinence syndrome -- was withdrawal. By contrast, jaundice -- a condition that causes yellowing of the skin -- was the most common reason preterm babies had to be readmitted to the hospital.

"The recent rise of neonatal abstinence syndrome led to efforts in many hospital systems to improve hospital care being delivered to infants with the syndrome," said lead investigator Dr. Stephen Patrick, assistant professor of pediatrics and health policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

"Our findings suggest that these improvements need to extend beyond the initial birth hospitalization to ensure a safe discharge home," he said in a Vanderbilt news release.

The study was published Oct. 1 in the journal Hospital Pediatrics.

More research is needed to find ways to reduce the risk of rehospitalization among infants with drug withdrawal syndrome, Patrick said.

"As state and federal policymakers work towards strategies to improve outcomes for women with substance use disorder and their infants, it will be important to ensure that families are supported during the critical transition from hospital to home to limit the risk of hospital readmission," Patrick said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about drug withdrawal syndrome in newborns.

SOURCE: Vanderbilt University Medical Center, news release, Oct. 1, 2015

-- Robert Preidt

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