Preterm Down syndrome Infants at High Risk for Heart, Lung Disorders
Very low birth weight Down syndrome infants are at higher risk for disorders of the heart and lungs than are early preterm infants who do not have a chromosomal variation, according to a study by a National Institutes of Health research network.
Akinso: Preterm Down syndrome infants are at higher risk for disorders of the heart and lungs than are early preterm infants.
Higgins: We have information on Down syndrome babies who are born at or near term, the usually nine month gestation.
Akinso: Dr. Rosemary Higgins is a medical officer at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Higgins: This study looked at the largest population of very low birth weight infants. Meaning, the babies weighed less than 1500 grams or 3 ½ pounds. We had a 133 such infants with Down syndrome in this study.
Akinso: This study was conducted by researchers in the Neonatal Research Network of the NICHD. The researchers sought to identify health concerns unique to this group of infants, which would inform their care and treatment. Dr. Higgins examines what researchers found when comparing very low birth weight infants without chromosomal variation to very low birth weight Down syndrome infants.
Higgins: The Down syndrome babies have a 38 percent death rate compared to a death rate of 19 percent in the babies without a chromosomal abnormality. Approximately almost half of the deaths in the Down syndrome babies are due to what's called congenital anomalies or abnormalities of the heart or the gastrointestinal tract and other associated abnormalities. The main disorders are cardiac which end up causing the mortality. The rate of lung disease was somewhat higher in the Down syndrome babies compared to babies without any birth defects.
Akinso: She explains how this study benefits health professionals dealing with very low birth weight Down syndrome infants.
Higgins: Before this study the information that we had to help guide decision-making was mainly based on babies who were born quite prematurely, that being the very low birth weight infants. It was suspected by physicians that infants with Down syndrome probably didn't do as well as their counterpart non-chromosomal abnormality babies. This information helps to guide decisions for very low birth weight infants with Down syndrome. They certainly are at higher risk for death and some of the other common problems of prematurity when compared to babies without chromosomal abnormalities.
Akinso: She adds that this study provides useful information to this unique group. For more information, visit www.nichd.nih.gov. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Wally Akinso
Sound Bite: Dr. Rosemary Higgins
Topic: Down syndrome, low birth weight infants