Rate of NAS Babies Rose 11 Percent in 2017

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a condition that afflicts babies born experiencing symptoms associated with withdrawal from exposure to certain drugs in the womb before birth. NAS is most often caused when a mother misuses opioids during pregnancy. In the United States, the incidence of NAS has steadily increased since the 1970s and has now become a significant public health problem.1 Nationally, NICU admissions due to NAS have increased from 7 cases per 1,000 admissions in 2004 to 27 cases per 1,000 admissions in 2013, with an increase in the median length of stay for infants with NAS from 13 to 19 days, resulting in increased hospital costs.2,3 In Virginia, the total number of NAS hospitalizations increased from 741 in 2016 to 819 in 2017, a nearly 11 percent increase in one year. The rising number of babies diagnosed with NAS has an impact on Virginia’s finances; on average, three out of four NAS infants in the Commonwealth are covered by Medicaid. As part of the ongoing monitoring of this troubling trend, the VHHA Analytics Team also mapped the prevalence of NAS by region and found that 2017 NAS cases increased 31 percent in Southwest Virginia (see Figure 2). (3/30)

1 Patrick SW, Dudley J, Martin PR, Harrell FE, Warren MD, Hartmann KE, et al. Prescription opioid epidemic and infant outcomes. Pediatrics (2015) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=25869370
2 Tolia VN, Patrick SW, Bennett MM, Murthy K, Sousa J, Smith PB, et al. Increasing incidence of the neonatal abstinence syndrome in U.S. neonatal ICUs. N Engl J Med(2015) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=25913111
3 Gomez-Pomar E and Finnegan LP (2018) The Epidemic of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, Historical References of Its’ Origins, Assessment, and Management. Front. Pediatr. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fped.2018.00033/full#B28