Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) is associated with long and costly birth hospitalization and increased readmission risk. Our objective was to examine readmissions in the first year of life for infants diagnosed with NOWS compared with infants without NOWS, adjusting for sociodemographic and clinical factors, and to describe use during readmissions in this population.
Using data from the Pediatric Health Information System, we identified singleton term infants with NOWS and without NOWS or other major condition (by diagnosis codes and All Patient Refined Diagnosis Related Groups coding, respectively) discharged from 2016 to 2019. We predicted time to first readmission within the first year of life using Cox regression analysis. Predictors included NOWS diagnosis, sociodemographic factors, birth NICU use, and birth weight.
We included 155 885 birth discharges from 17 hospitals (n = 1467 NOWS) with 10 087 readmissions. Unadjusted 1-year readmission rates were 9.9% among NOWS infants versus 6.2% among those without NOWS. The adjusted hazard ratio for readmission within the first year was 1.76 (95% confidence interval: 1.40–2.22) for infants with NOWS versus those without. Readmissions for infants with NOWS were longer and costlier and more likely to require intensive care and mechanical ventilation. Readmissions among infants without NOWS were most commonly for jaundice and respiratory and other infections, whereas respiratory infections were the leading cause of readmissions among NOWS infants.
Infants with a NOWS diagnosis were more likely to be readmitted within the first year of life. In future work, researchers should explore potential interventions to prevent readmissions and provide resources to families affected by opioid dependence.