A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics raises questions about the pertinence of admissions to U.S. intensive care units for newborn babies. The study suggests that overall admission rates to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) are on the rise—regardless of birth weight.
Researchers examined data from about 18 million live births in the U.S. from between January 2007 and December 2012. The study covered 38 states and the District of Columbia.
They discovered four key factors:
- In 2012, there were 43 NICU admissions per 1,000 normal-birth-weight admissions (2,500 to 3,999 grams)
- Also in 2012, the admissions rate for very-low infant birth weight (below 1,500 grams) was 844.1 per 1,000 live births
- NICUs also admitted full-term infants of higher birth weights from 2007 to 2012
- Nearly half of all NICU admissions reported in 2012 were for normal birth-weight toddlers or for those born at 37 weeks conception or older
In their report, study researchers conclude that: “Newborns in the United States are increasingly likely to be admitted to a NICU, and these units are increasingly caring for normal-birthweight and term infants.”
Although the implications as to why aren’t exactly clear, researchers believe the findings raise questions about how NICU admissions are being used.
Harrison, W., et al., “Epidemiologic trends in neonatal intensive care, 2007-2012,” JAMA Pediatrics doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1305, published online July 27, 2015.
MacGill, M., “Rise in newborns being admitted to intensive care,” Medical News Today web site, July 28, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/297335.php.