Specialists of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that the incidence of gastroschisis, a birth defect in which the intestines or other organs fall out of the abdominal cavity, has increased in the United States. Doctors explain this by an increase in the use of painkillers, but other factors may also influence. This is reported in an article published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In most cases, the cause of gastroschisis is unknown, but early motherhood, the use of certain medications, including aspirin, smoking, and alcohol are among the risk factors.
The prolapse of the abdominal organs does not pose a serious threat to the life of the infant, however, it requires an urgent surgical operation, and the recovery process takes several weeks. In addition, the operated children for many years may experience problems with digestion.
Scientists analyzed data obtained in the course of 20 studies to assess the incidence of gastroschisis in the periods from 2006 to 2010 and from 2011 to 2015 and to find a possible connection with the use of opioids by prescription. In the first observation period, 3,489 cases of gastroschisis were recorded among 8.34 million births, and in the second, 4,166 (among 9.36 million births). For all the considered time (2006-2015), the frequency of gastroschisis increased by 10 percent, mainly among mothers under 20 years of age.
At the same time, the prevalence of the disease in areas with a high level of opioid use (5.1 per 10 thousand successful pregnancies) increased 1.6 times, and in areas with an average level of use (4.6 per 10 thousand) – 1.4 times ( compared to areas with low consumption, equal to 3.2 per 10 thousand).
The authors of the article emphasize that since their study was observational, it is impossible to establish a causal link. In addition, the data analyzed did not take into account the use of drugs such as buprenorphine and methadone. Also, scientists admit the influence of mixing factors that affect both the incidence of gastroschisis, and the use of opioids and create the appearance of communication. Future research should provide more accurate data.