Neonatal intensive care decreased during COVID-19 epidemic

  • November 26, 2020

The study using the large scale database owned by Medical Data Vision, (Tokyo; Hiroyuki Iwasaki, President), has revealed that there was a downward trend in the number of neonatal intensive care admissions and the number of preterm deliveries during the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus infection (COVID-19).

This study was conducted jointly by a team of Drs. Hiroto Maeda, Kohei Ogawa, and Haruhiko Sago of Center for Maternal-Fetal, Neonatal and Reproductive Medicine at the National Center for Child Health and Development (Setagaya-ku, Tokyo), Assistant Professor Atsushi Miyawaki of the Department of Public Health at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Medicine, and Hideki Ninomiya (CEO of DATAC, Inc.) of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Keio University School of Medicine, and MDV’s director, Masaki Nakamura.

The article in this study was published online in the British medical journal, ADC (Archives of Disease in Childhood – Fetal and Neonatal Edition), which covers the pediatric field.

Initially there were concerns that the COVID-19 epidemic would increase the number of perinatal illnesses and neonatal intensive care cases due to increased physical and mental stress in pregnant women. However, there were reports of a decrease in the number of very low birth weight babies (birth weight less than 1,500g) overseas. This study conducted to confirm if the same results could be seen in Japan. A total of 186 DPC hospitals across Japan were included in this study.

We analyzed changes during the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic by comparing NICU (*1) and GCU (*2) hospitalization days and preterm births (34-37 weeks of gestation and before 34 weeks) at weeks 2-9 in 2020( the week beginning from January 6th, to the week beginning from February 25th when the government developed the basic policy for COVID-19) and weeks 10-17 in 2020(From the week beginning from March 2nd, to the week beginning from April 13th including April 16th when the government extended the state of emergency declaration to all prefectures), with adjusting year and month trends.
As a result, NICU hospitalization days decreased by 24% (95% CI, 11%-35%) and GCU hospitalization days decreased by 29% (95% CI, 25%-34%) from weeks 2-9 to weeks 10-17 of 2020. Although ward closures and refraining from going hospitals may be the reason, there was a 29% (95% CI, 0%-50%) decrease in preterm births at less than 34 weeks’ gestation and a 15% (95% CI, 2-26%) decrease in preterm births at 34-37 weeks’ gestation, suggesting at least partly that the number of newborns requiring intensive neonatal care has decreased. Assistant Professor Miyawaki said, “Further research is expected to determine why we saw such a decrease.”

※1 NICU: Neonatal Specific Intensive Care Unit, department that intensively manages and treats preterm babies, low birth weight babies, or newborns with any disease.

※2 GCU: Recovery Unit, a department where newborns who have been treated in the NICU and have come out of the acute phase of their condition and continue to receive treatment.

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