The rate of a serious birth defect is on the rise in the United States, and a new report suggests that the condition may be related to the use of opioids.
The report was published on January 17 by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, investigating cases of gastroschisis, a birth defect in which a baby is born with a gut outside the body due to a hole in the abdominal wall. Surgery is required to bring the intestines back into the body and repair the hole, but even after this treatment, infants may have trouble digesting, eating, and eating, according to the CDC. The cause of the disease is usually unknown, but it is believed that mothers under the age of 20 are at higher risk than older mothers.
The new report analyzed information on gastroschisis cases in 20 US states and found that the gastroschisis rate increased by 1
The new report follows an earlier study that found that the gastroschisis rate also increased between 1995 and 2012.
The reason for the increase is unknown, but the new report indicates an association with the opioid epidemic. Researchers found that the prevalence of gastroschisis was 1.6 times higher in high-prescription opioid rates than in those with low rates of prescription opioids. However, the researchers found that the study found only one connection and can not prove that opioid use causes gastroschisis. The study looked at levels of opioid and gastroschisis at the population level, and there was no information on whether women suffering from gastroschis were exposed to opioids. Saima Aftab, medical director of the Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, who was not involved in the study, said that this increase in the incidence of gastroschisis is worrying. And the fact that rates are rising not only among women under the age of 20, who are believed to be at the highest risk, but also in older age groups, is "even more alarming," Aftab told Live Science. This suggests that the usual patterns of gastroschisis epidemiology "change something".
Aftab noted that she and her colleagues have noted an increase in gastroschisis cases in their hospital's fetal program even in the past six months.
Gastroschisis is a serious condition that can cause swelling, twists and damage to the bowel before birth. Even after an operation, it can take weeks for the bowel to function, and babies could spend months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
The link to the opioids seen in the new report is an interesting signal, Aftab said, although she also pointed out that the report can not determine causality.
But "it directs where we need to direct our research and how we can answer these questions," she said. For example, in animal science studies on animals, it is possible to investigate whether opioids disturb the blood vessels or intestinal tissue during pregnancy. Researchers may also examine the association between high-risk populations of women taking opioids during pregnancy.
"A better understanding of all possible effects of opioid use during pregnancy can help provide evidence-based information for health care providers and women about the potential risks to the developing fetus," concludes the report.
Originally published on Live Science .