CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Nine Tri-State area hospitals have begun universal drug testing to combat a growing epidemic of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), or babies born addicted to drugs.
According to the Greater Cincinnati Health Council, the Cincinnati area has seen a fivefold increase in NAS over the past five years. Across the Tri-State, the number of babies born dependent on drugs has more than tripled to 36 per 1,000 births in 2012 --- Compared to 11 per 1,000 births in 2009.
The Greater Cincinnati Health Council works with hospitals in the region and collaborated with member hospitals to identify strategies to best serve these babies, one of those being universal drug testing of mothers.
Officials say mothers will take the test once they're admitted into the maternity ward before delivery. A positive test will enable doctors to immediately begin treating the infant.
Mothers will be informed of this test and other lab tests performed before delivery, and as with any medical procedure, have the right to refuse.
"Universal testing is designed to help the family, the mother and the infant. It ensures that the hospital can monitor the infant after birth and provide the appropriate care if the infant begins to show withdrawal symptoms," said Scott Wexelblatt, MD, medical director of Regional Newborn Services at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
According to Health Council officials, infants exposed to any narcotic in utero are at risk for NAS. Symptoms can include excessive crying, abnormal muscle tone, feeding difficulties and even seizures in some cases due to narcotic withdrawal following delivery. These symptoms often appear 2-7 days after delivery.
"One of our main goals with this program is to identify and implement the best practice of care for this group of infants," said Dr. Wexelblatt who is working with leaders from five other children's hospitals in the state at the request of Gov. Kasich to address this issue.
Hospitals that have implemented universal drug testing:
- Fort Hamilton Hospital
- Highland District Hospital
- Mercy Health – Anderson Hospital
- Mercy Health – Fairfield Hospital
- St. Elizabeth Edgewood
- The Christ Hospital
- TriHealth's Bethesda North Hospital
- TriHealth's Good Samaritan Hospital
- UC Health – University of Cincinnati Medical Center
Read additional information at the Greater Cincinnati Health Council's website: http://www.gchc.org