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Preemies Born to Poor Families May Face Higher Risk for Brain Bleeds

These hemorrhages can have long-lasting effects and are expensive to treat, researchers say

TUESDAY, Oct. 16, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Premature babies born to low-income parents are at especially high risk for dangerous brain bleeds, a new study finds.

Such bleeds (hemorrhages) can require multiple surgeries to repair and extensive follow-up care, noted researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore.

"Brain hemorrhages can have a lifelong impact on a child's neurological and cognitive development, but also create a financial burden on the families, many of whom in our study were already economically challenged," study senior author and pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Edward Ahn said in a Hopkins news release.

He and his colleagues looked at the cases of 38 babies who were born prematurely and treated at Hopkins Children's between 2007 and 2010 for complications of brain bleeds. Of those infants, 65 percent came from low-income families and 63 percent were covered by public health insurance.

Ahn's team said it's not yet clear how family income could affect babies' odds for brain hemorrhage, but further study conducted on a wider scale might answer that question.

In addition to having a higher risk for brain bleeds, premature babies born to low-income parents and those with public health insurance had fewer scheduled follow-up visits and more emergency room visits than those born to higher-income parents and those with private health insurance.

"If a family foregoes a scheduled follow-up and instead ends up in the ER with a serious, yet likely preventable, complication, the medical and financial consequences can be far worse, not only for the family but for the health care system as a whole because ER care is more expensive than routine check-ups," Ahn said.

The findings were published online recently in the journal Pediatric Neurosurgery.

"Our study shows just how detrimental and far-reaching the effects of prematurity can be, medically and otherwise, highlighting the critical need to better identify high-risk pregnancies and reduce the number of premature births," Ahn said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about health issues of premature babies.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Oct. 11, 2012
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