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Feasibility of using the national hospital discharge survey to estimate the prevalence of selected birth defects.

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National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA.



Nationally representative data on the prevalence of certain birth defects are largely unavailable. We evaluated the feasibility of using data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS) to describe the prevalence of selected birth defects.


All live births recorded in the NHDS during 1999-2001 were included. The prevalence for selected birth defects was calculated using weighted ratio estimators. Prevalence ratios comparing the NHDS estimates to published national estimates from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) were calculated.


With the exception of common truncus, the NHDS prevalence for the selected defects was consistently lower than the NBDPN estimates. The prevalence ratios ranged from 0.38 for trisomy 18 and anopthalmia/micropthalmia to 1.16 for common truncus. The NHDS prevalence estimates for spina bifida without anencephaly (PR 0.89, 95% CI: 0.57-1.22) and gastroschisis/omphalocele (PR 0.94, 95% CF: 0.48-1.40) most closely approximated the NBDPN estimates.


NHDS data underestimate the prevalence of most birth defects. Additional research is needed to determine whether NHDS estimates may be useful for evaluating trends in certain conditions. Surveillance systems employing active case-finding continue to provide more accurate estimates of birth defects prevalence.

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