MONDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Children who were deprived
of oxygen in the womb or during birth are more likely to develop
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new study
Kaiser Permanente researchers found oxygen deprivation may play
a greater role in the prevalence of ADHD than other genetic or
familial risk factors for the condition. They noted their findings
could help doctors identify and treat children at greater risk for
"Previous studies have found that hypoxic injury during fetal development leads to significant structural and functional brain injuries in the offspring. However, this study suggests that the adverse effect of hypoxia and ischemia on prenatal brain development may lead to functional problems, including ADHD," study author Dr. Darios Getahun, of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California department of research and evaluation, said in a news release. "Our findings could have important clinical implications. They could help physicians identify newborns at risk that could benefit from surveillance and early diagnosis, when treatment is more effective."
The researchers analyzed the electronic health records of almost
82,000 children ranging in age from 5 to 11. They found that those
who were oxygen deprived before birth had a 16 percent greater risk
for developing ADHD, while oxygen deprivation during birth was
associated with a 26 percent greater risk for the disorder.
The researchers added that neonatal respiratory distress
syndrome was associated with a 47 percent greater risk, and
children with exposure to preeclampsia (high blood pressure during
pregnancy) had a 34 percent higher risk for the condition.
The link between ADHD and oxygen deprivation was strongest in
premature births. After taking gestational age and other risk
factors into account, the study also revealed children whose
deliveries were breech, transverse (shoulder-first) or involved
cord complications had a 13 percent higher risk for ADHD.
The researchers noted the link between ADHD and oxygen
deprivation applied to children of all races and ethnicities.
While the study showed an association between oxygen deprivation
in the womb and ADHD, it did not prove cause-and-effect.
"We suggest future research to focus on pre- and post-natal conditions and the associations with adverse outcomes, such as ADHD," Getahun added.
In 2005, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimated the annual cost of ADHD-related illness in children could
be as high as $52.4 billion. In 2010, 8.4 percent of children
between the ages of 3 and 17 were diagnosed with ADHD.
The study was published online Dec. 10 in the journal
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