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New study: percentage of babies born with intestinal birth defect growing in U.S., N.C.

(Embargoed) CHAPEL HILL -- Gastroschisis, an uncommon but life-threatening birth defect in which babies are born with their intestines outside their abdomens, increased markedly in North Carolina and the rest of the United States in the late 1990s, according to a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.

No one knows why the congenital defect occurs more often now, but UNC School of Medicine scientists suspect that because of its rapid increase, environmental and either legitimate or illegitimate drug exposures may be responsible.

A report on the troubling finding appears in the June issue of the Journal of Perinatology, a professional journal, being published today (May 22).

UNC authors are Drs. Matthew M. Laughon, a fellow in neonatal-perinatal medicine; Carl Bose, professor of pediatrics and chief of neonatal-perinatal medicine; and Ann Heerens, a former fellow now with the Pediatrix Medical Group of Roanoke, Va.. Others are Dr. Robert Meyer and Alison Wall of the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics in Raleigh, Dr. Eduardo Otero of the Broward General Medical Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Dr. Reese Clark of the Pediatrix Medical Group in Sunrise, Fla.

"We decided to do this study because we seemed to be getting a lot of referrals to our Center for Maternal and Infant Health of mothers whose babies were born with gastroschisis," Laughon said. "This is an important problem because the mortality rate for these children is somewhere between 3 percent and 8 percent. Pediatric surgeons replace the intestines during surgery, but since they don't work well at first, it takes babies a long time to recover, and many of them will spend an average of 30 to 40 days in the hospital."

The UNC doctors and their colleagues decided to analyze medical information from two large databases, one for North Carolina births and the other for patients across the nation to learn if the incidence of the ailment had changed in
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Contact: David Williamson
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
22-May-2003


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