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Birth Defects Cause 20 Percent of U.S. Infant Deaths

Infants with two congenital heart defects run up greatest hospital costs at almost $200,000 each

TUESDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Congenital defects cause one in five deaths of U.S. infants, and while anencephaly, trisomy 13 and trisomy 18 have the highest in-hospital death rates, renal agenesis and diaphragmatic hernia are responsible for the largest overall number of neonatal hospital deaths, according to a report in the Jan. 19 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

James M. Robbins, Ph.D., of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, and researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, evaluated the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project 2003 Kids' Inpatient Database, which included nationally representative data from 36 states on infants with 35 congenital defects who were hospitalized in 2003.

The researchers found that infants with omphalocele (32.5 days) and surgically repaired gastroschisis (41 days) had the longest average length of stay, but those with common truncus arteriosus ($192,781) and hypoplastic left heart syndrome ($199,597) had the highest average hospital bills.

"The findings in this report underscore the need for further studies of medical-care utilization and expenditures beyond the neonatal period and analyses of survival among infants identified with birth defects in registries," the authors write. "Such studies should distinguish outcomes for children with isolated and multiple birth defects and by condition of severity, where possible. In addition, surveys of families are needed to quantify the economic and psychosocial effects of birth defects."

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