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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Testing Umbilical Cords for Drugs

The prescription opioid epidemic in the United States has led to a surge of babies being born with drugs in their system. Such occurrences can result in what is known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), the result of complications arising from a baby experiencing withdrawal upon leaving the womb. NAS requires specialized medical attention and extended hospital stays.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study which found that the number of babies born with NAS in the last decade has quadrupled. In 2013, 27 infants per 1,000 were affected by NAS, compared to seven babies for every 1,000 in 2004.

Determining whether or not a newborn baby has been exposed to drugs and which types of drugs they have been exposed to is crucial for neonatal specialists to begin treatment. In Utah, a lab has begun testing umbilical cords for the presence of drugs, Medical Daily reports. Umbilical cord testing is considered to be faster, taking up to 72 hours.

“Sometimes babies are already in the throes of withdrawal symptoms but physicians can’t determine what drugs they are dealing with until test results are available,” Dr. Gwen McMillin, Medical Director of ARUP’s Clinical Toxicology Laboratories, said in a press release.

ARUP Laboratories is the second in the nation to conduct umbilical cord drug testing, according to the article. In the past, neonatal drug testing required that doctors analyze a baby's meconium (first stool). The expedited umbilical testing will allow doctors to begin the appropriate NAS treatment faster.

Symptoms of NAS include:
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Low-grade fever
  • Constant High-Pitched Crying

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