Objective: To determine whether use of the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) code for fetal alcohol effects has declined during the past 10 years among hospitalized newborns in the United States.
Design: Trends in use of the ICD-9-CM code 760.71, "alcohol affecting the fetus," among newborns from 1993 through 2002 were compared with trends in self-reported drinking during pregnancy and maternal diagnoses of alcohol abuse during childbirth.
Setting: Sampled short-term, nonfederal general and specialty hospitals.
Participants: Infants born from 1993 to 2002 in the United States who were included in the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project databases.
Main outcome measures: Documentation of ICD-9-CM code 760.71 among newborns, self-reported drinking during pregnancy, and diagnoses of maternal alcohol abuse during childbirth from 1993 through 2002.
Results: The prevalence of the ICD-9-CM code 760.71 for alcohol affecting the fetus, as documented in the discharge record of newborns, declined from 0.73 (95% confidence interval, 0.56-0.92) per 1000 live births in 1993 to 0.17 (95% confidence interval, 0.13-0.20) per 1000 live births in 2002. Rates declined concurrently with those of self-reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy and diagnoses of maternal alcohol abuse during childbirth.
Conclusions: Use of the ICD-9-CM code for alcohol affecting the fetus among newborns declined 75% throughout 10 years. Results may be due to decreases in drinking during pregnancy, decreases in disclosure of alcohol use by the mother, or more selective use of the discharge code. National hospital discharge databases may allow cost-effective monitoring of public health interventions that address rare conditions of the fetus and newborn.