Orofacial Clefts Most Common Birth Defect in United States

Finding is part of CDC's improved estimates, which will lead to better care for children

FRIDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Orofacial clefts (cleft lip and cleft palate) are the most common birth defects in the United States, followed by Down syndrome, according to a report in the Jan. 6 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The statistics, part of an effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop population-based national prevalence estimates for 18 specific birth defects, should help doctors and communities plan for children's needs, the CDC says.

The estimates are from population-based surveillance data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network in 11 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. These are the only states that send staff to hospitals to review records and identify babies with the 18 major birth defects for which the national prevalence was estimated.

The 1999-2001 data suggest that orofacial clefts affect 6,800 infants annually, and Down syndrome affects about 5,500 infants every year.

"Accurate national prevalence estimates of major birth defects are essential because birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality and a major contributor to childhood morbidity," according to the CDC.

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