The opioid epidemic in the United States has led to a significant increase in the incidence of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS); however, the understanding of long-term consequences of NOWS is limited. The objective of this study was to evaluate post-discharge healthcare utilization in infants with NOWS and examine the association between NOWS severity and healthcare utilization. A retrospective cohort design was used to ascertain healthcare utilization in the first year after birth-related discharge using the CERNER Health Facts® database. ICD-9/ICD-10 diagnostic codes were used to identify live births and to classify infants into two study groups: NOWS and uncomplicated births (a 25% random sample). Evaluated outcomes included rehospitalization, emergency department (ED) visits within 30-days and one-year after discharge, and a composite one-year utilization event (either hospitalization or emergency department visit during that year). NOWS severity was operationalized as pharmacologic treatment, length of hospitalization, and medical conditions often associated with NOWS. In 3,526 infants with NOWS (restricted to gestational age ≥ 33 weeks), NOWS severity was associated with an increase in composite one-year utilization (OR: 1.1; 95% CI: 1.04-1.2) after adjusting for prematurity, sepsis, jaundice, use of antibiotics, infant sex, insurance status, race, hospital bed size, year of birth, and census division. In a subset of full-term infants (3008 with NOWS and 88,452 uncomplicated births), having a NOWS diagnosis was associated with higher odds of a 30-day (OR: 1.6; 95% CI: 1.03-2.4) and one-year rehospitalization (OR: 1.6; 95% CI: 1.1-2.4) after adjusting for infant sex, race, type of medical insurance, hospital location, census division, year of primary encounter, hospital bed size, and medical conditions. This study found higher healthcare utilization during the first year of life in infants diagnosed with NOWS, especially those with severe NOWS. Findings suggest a need for closer post-discharge follow-up and management of infants with NOWS.
Keywords: Healthcare utilization; Hospitalizations; Infants; Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome; Opioids; Pregnancy.
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