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US Doctors Are Sending Newborns To NICU Unnecessarily!

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Parents or expecting ones won’t feel good to know that more babies of all birth weight are being admitted to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) these days. The latest statistics show a higher rate of admissions in this highly specialized unit in the United States.
But the most surprising thing is that babies of all birth weight categories and even the normal-sized newborns who were born at term, are being admitted in NICU.

The overall NICU admission rates have shot up from 64 to 78 per 100 live births. More and more newborns of higher birth weight were admitted to NICU during the year 2007 and 2012. Babies of normal birth weight or babies born at 37 weeks pregnancy or older made up almost half of the admission. For every 1000 newborns of normal birth weight, 43 were admitted into the NICU, and for every 1000 newborns of very low birth weight, 844 were admitted to the NICU, according to a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics. These findings are based on data from 10 million live births in the 38 states and Washington DC, between January 2007 and December 2012.


The first thing that comes in our mind after seeing this research is that, “If doctors are sending some newborns to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit unnecessarily?” Are the doctors overusing the pricey and precious resources of this highly specialized unit?

The study authors Wade Harrison, M.P.H., and David Goodman, M.D., of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Geisel School of Medicine, pointed that there findings raise questions about these highly intensity resources are being used.
Aaron E. Carroll, M.D., M.S., of the Indiana University School of Medicine, wrote in an article that the topic of increasing NICU admission rate is worth considering.

It’s not because of possible fraud or waste, but it’s because taking care of a newborn in NICU is expensive and carries potential harm. If the doctors want to argue that NICUs are necessary, they will need to prove that the need exists, especially in case of the newborns admitted who are at or near full term. But if hospitals and doctors fail to prove that NICUs are necessary, then it’s very likely at some point in future that policies will be made to reduce the admissions. And, definitely, it would have major implications for NICU and hospital finances.

image source:riverainsphotography.com,virtua.org
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