Heart Problems Make Up Half of Birth Defect Costs (Udpate1)
By Joi Preciphs
Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Heart conditions accounted for about half the cost of hospitalizations for birth defects in the U.S. in 2003, a federal study found.
Investigators examined hospital admissions data from 36 states for newborns with 35 different birth defects to get the results, published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in 33 babies born in the U.S. each year has a birth defect, the leading cause of death and hospitalization in children, the Atlanta-based CDC said.
Because hospital charges don't reflect the actual cost of payers for inpatient care, the findings ``underscore the need'' for more studies examining birth defects, including their effects on families, said researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, in Little Rock.
``If there's a birth defect involved, it's almost always going to necessitate a more complicated, lengthier and costly hospital stay,'' said the lead author, James Robbins, a professor of pediatrics at the university's Center for Applied Research and Evaluation, in a phone interview today.
Two congenital heart defects were found to have the highest average hospital costs: hypoplastic left heart, in which the organ's left side is underdeveloped at birth, at $199,597, and common truncus arteriosus, in which a single vessel leads out of the heart, at $192,781. Two other heart defects were associated with average hospital charges exceeding $150,000, as were two birth defects not related to the heart, the study said.
Six conditions each had total charges of in excess of $200 million dollars for the year, the study said. Obstructions of the urinary tract were the most-expensive birth defects, costing about $365 million.
Researchers focused on 35 of the 45 categories of birth defects because the conditions should be recognizable at birth or soon after birth, Robbins said.
``There will be further studies,'' Robbins said, adding that the information may help parents and doctors make more-informed decisions about neonatal care.
The study was reported in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
To contact the reporter on this story: Joi Preciphs in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org .