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Hospitalization for Birth Defects: Heart, Circulatory Problems Account for One-Third

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: January 17, 2007

People born with a hole between the two smaller chambers of the heart—known as atrial septal defect—or with other heart and circulatory conditions, accounted for one third of the 139,100 hospital admissions for birth defects in 2004, according to the latest News and Numbers summary from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

  • Digestive problems, such as pyloric stenosis, a narrowing of the stomach that causes vomiting, were the second-leading category of birth defects. They accounted for nearly 29,000 admissions, or about 19 percent of all birth defect cases.
  • Genitourinary birth defects (9 percent) and nervous system birth defects (5 percent) were the next largest categories of birth defects.
  • The remaining 34 percent of birth defects included problems such as cleft palate, hip deformities, sunken chest, skull and facial bone defects, spinal deformities, and foot deformities.
  • Between 1997 and 2004, hospital admission rates increased by more than 25 percent for heart and circulatory birth defects and digestive birth defects.
  • Hospitals spent $2.6 billion in 2004 for the treatment of birth defects. Half of the costs were for congenital heart and circulatory problems.

Although most birth defects are discovered within the first year after birth, others may not be discovered or treated until adulthood. Some birth defects result in debilitating illness or death at a very young age, while others may be treated successfully with surgery or other therapies.

This AHRQ News & Numbers summary is based on data in Hospitalizations for Birth Defects, 2004, HCUP Statistical Brief No. 24. The report uses statistics from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

To speak with the author of this report, or for information from previous AHRQ News and Numbers summaries, contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of January 2007


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