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Major Decline in U.S. Reports of Newborn Fetal Alcohol Effects

Researchers see 75 percent decrease in newborn discharge coding for fetal alcohol effects between 1993 and 2002

MONDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Between 1993 and 2002, the number of newborns diagnosed with discharge coding for fetal alcohol effects according to the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) declined by 75 percent, researchers report in the December issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. It's not clear if the decline is due to a drop in drinking during pregnancy or a change in coding practices.

James M. Robbins, Ph.D., of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, and colleagues studied records from 1993 to 2002 on U.S.-born infants who were included in the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project databases.

The researchers found that ICD-9-CM code 760.71 for alcohol affecting the fetus, as documented in the discharge record of newborns, declined from 0.73 per 1,000 live births in 1993 to 0.17 per 1,000 in 2002. They also found that rates declined concurrently with those of self-reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy and diagnoses of maternal alcohol abuse during childbirth.

"Results may be due to decreases in drinking during pregnancy, decreases in disclosure of alcohol use by the mother, or more selective use of the discharge code," the authors conclude. "National hospital discharge databases may allow cost-effective monitoring of public health interventions that address rare conditions of the fetus and newborn."

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