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Tiniest Newborns With Down Syndrome Face Other Health Risks

MONDAY, Nov. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Infants with Down syndrome who weigh less than 3.5 pounds at birth are at high risk for heart and lung disorders that increase their chances of dying, a new study has found.

U.S. researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 50,000 very low birth weight (VLBW) infants who weighed between 0.875 pounds and 3.5 pounds at birth. They found that among this group of babies, those born with Down syndrome were about 2.5 times more likely to die during infancy than the other VLBW babies.

This increased risk of death was due in part to their higher rates of heart, lung and digestive tract disorders, and life-threatening blood infections, the study authors noted.

However, the researchers also found that Down syndrome infants were less likely than other VLBW infants to develop retinopathy of prematurity, a vision problem caused by overgrowth of blood vessels in the retina.

The study findings, published online Nov. 22 in the journal Pediatrics, may help guide the care and treatment of VLBW Down syndrome infants, the authors suggested.

"Previously, health professionals caring for very low birth weight Down syndrome infants had to base treatment decisions on studies of the general population of very low birth weight infants and on studies of infants with Down syndrome who may not have been of low birth weight," senior author Dr. Rosemary D. Higgins, of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a U.S. National Institutes of Health news release.

"Our study provides much needed information for practitioners and families making treatment decisions for this unique group of patients," she added.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about Down syndrome.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. National Institutes of Health, news release, Nov. 22, 2010

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