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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Hospitals Move from Universal Screening to Universal Testing

nas
The dramatic rise of opioid abuse in the United States has led to a crisis in delivery rooms across the country. The heroin scourge plaguing Americans cannot help but touch those who have yet to be born. Expectant mothers who use opioid narcotics of any kind put their unborn child at serious health risks, often requiring intensive neonatal treatment upon delivery - a disorder known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The syndrome is the direct result of a 100 percent rise in heroin addiction between 2002 and 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In response to the problem, areas hardest hit by the heroin epidemic are taking extreme caution with all newborn babies. In Ohio, a state which has been witness to the growing rates of NAS first hand, a collective of Cincinnati hospitals announced its plans to test all mothers or their babies for the presence of opioid narcotics, Reuters reports. Over the last ten years, a recent study found that the number of babies treated for NAS has almost quadrupled.

The group of Cincinnati hospitals hopes that testing will help doctors identify babies with the potential for developing the symptoms of NAS. “The key thing we wanted to do is identify these infants early on,” said Dr. Scott Wexelblatt of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Babies born with opioids in their system, such as illegal heroin or legal oxycodone, often experience the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Symptoms of NAS can include:
  • Extreme Irritability
  • Poor Feeding
  • Diarrhea for 48 to 96 Hours
The program will be funded by a state grant, allowing Cincinnati hospitals to go from universal screening to universal testing, according to the article. Universal screening involved asking mothers questions to determine if they may be using drugs. Under universal testing, if mothers refuse to submit to a drug test their babies will be tested anyway.

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