Healthcare utilization among children with a history of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome: A matched cohort study

Lauren Q. Malthaner, Katelyn K. Jetelina, Hilda Loria, Jill D. McLeigh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Compare longitudinal healthcare utilization patterns in children with and without a history of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS). Study design: A retrospective matched cohort study was conducted using billing data extracted from between 2003 and 2016 in North Texas hospitals. The sample included 595 pediatric patients diagnosed with NOWS (i.e. exposed). The unexposed were patients not diagnosed with NOWS and matched 4:1 on sex, age at first encounter, and ethnicity to the exposed who received care during the same period. Multi-level regression models (accounting for clustered data structure of multiple visits per patient) compared number of hospitalizations, number of outpatient visits, number of emergency department (ED) visits, average length of stay, and healthcare expenditures across patients with and without NOWS. Results: Hospitalizations were significantly lower among exposed (Incidence Rate Ratio [IRR] = 0.58, 95 % Confidence Interval [CI] = 0.44–0.77) compared to unexposed. Outpatient visits, ED visits, and average length of stay was significantly higher among exposed compared to unexposed (IRR = 1.19, 95 % CI = 1.04–1.36; IRR = 1.22, 95 % CI = 1.04–1.42; IRR = 2.21, 95 % CI = 2.03–2.42, respectively). Overall healthcare expenditure was greater among exposed, as well as for patients with neurologic, endocrine, cardiac, mental disorders, respiratory, perinatal, infectious disease, eye, ear, digestive, congenital anomaly, and skin diagnoses. Conclusions: Children with a diagnosis of NOWS have significantly higher healthcare expenditures, and with the exception of hospitalizations, higher healthcare utilization beyond the newborn visit. These findings suggest the needs for interventions for children with NOWS beyond the immediate neonatal period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105934
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Longitudinal healthcare utilization
  • Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome
  • Pediatrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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