Infants Born with Down Syndrome: Burden of Disease in the Early Neonatal Period

J Pediatr. 2018 Feb;193:21-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.09.046. Epub 2017 Nov 23.


Objective: To evaluate the incidence of direct admission of infants with Down syndrome to the postnatal ward (well newborn nursery) vs the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and to describe the incidence of congenital heart disease (CHD) and pulmonary hypertension (PH).

Study design: This retrospective cohort study of Down syndrome used the maternal/infant database (2011-2016) at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Admission location, early neonatal morbidities, outcomes, and duration of stay were evaluated and regression analyses were conducted to identify risk factors associated with morbidity and mortality.

Results: Of the 121 infants with Down syndrome, 54 (45%) were initially admitted to the postnatal ward, but 38 (70%) were later admitted to the NICU. Low oxygen saturation profile was the most common cause for the initial and subsequent admission to the NICU. Sixty-six percent of the infants (80/121) had CHD, 34% (41/121) had PH, and 6% died. Risk factors independently associated with primary NICU admission included antenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, presence of CHD, PH, and the need for ventilation.

Conclusions: Infants with Down syndrome initially admitted to the postnatal ward have a high likelihood of requiring NICU admission. Overall, high rates of neonatal morbidity were noted, including rates of PH that were higher than previously reported. Proper screening of all infants with Down syndrome for CHD and PH is recommended to facilitate timely diagnoses and potentially shorten the duration of the hospital stay.

Keywords: Down syndrome; admission; morbidity; mortality; neonatal intensive care unit; pulmonary hypertension.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Down Syndrome / complications*
  • Down Syndrome / mortality
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / epidemiology*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / etiology
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / epidemiology*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / etiology
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / statistics & numerical data
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Nurseries, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors