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JAMA. 1991 Sep 18;266(11):1521-6.

The neonatal costs of maternal cocaine use.

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  • 1Division of Health Policy and Management, Columbia University School of Public Health, New York, NY.



--To examine the added neonatal cost and length of hospital stay associated with fetal cocaine exposure.


--All cocaine-exposed infants in the study population (n = 355) were compared with a random sample of unexposed infants (n = 199). Regression analysis was used to control for the independent effects of maternal age, smoking, alcohol consumption, prenatal care, race, gravidity, and sex of the infant.


--A large, public, inner-city hospital studied from 1985 to 1986.


--All infants were routinely tested for illicit substances, records were reviewed for maternal histories of substance abuse, and all known cocaine-exposed singleton infants were included.


--Cost and length of stay until each infant was medically cleared for hospital discharge and cost and length of stay until each infant was actually discharged from the hospital.


--Neonatal hospital costs until medically cleared for discharge were $5200 more for cocaine-exposed infants than for unexposed infants (a difference of $7957 vs $2757 [P = .003]). The costs of infants remaining in the nursery while awaiting home and social evaluation or foster care placement increased this difference by more than $3500 (P less than .0001). Compared with other forms of cocaine, fetal exposure to crack was associated with much larger cost increases ($6735 vs $1226). Exposure to other illicit substances in addition to cocaine was also associated with much larger cost increases ($8450 vs $1283).


--At the national level, we estimate that these individual medical costs add up to about $500 million. The large magnitude of these costs indicates that effective treatment programs for maternal cocaine abusers could yield savings within their first year of operation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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