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Premature Mortality Due to Congenital Anomalies - United States, 1984

Congenital anomalies were the fifth leading cause of years of potential life lost before age 65 (YPLL) in 1985 and accounted for 694,715 YPLL, or about 6%, of all YPLL (Table V, page 365). In 1984, the latest year for which detailed mortality data are available, they also ranked fifth. This report analyzes the 1984 data * on YPLL attributable to selected types of congenital anomalies by race (white, all other).

The leading cause of premature mortality was congenital anomalies of the cardiovascular system, such as transposition of the great vessels. They accounted for 44% of YPLL due to congenital anomalies. Defects of the nervous system such as spina bifida, accounted for 15.2%, and respiratory-system and chromosomal defects, such as Down's syndrome, each accounted for about 9% of all YPLL due to congenital anomalies. There were only minor variations by race in the proportional distributions of YPLL by type of anomaly (Table 1).

  • The data for this report were obtained from detailed mortality

computer tapes available from the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC.

Reported by: Birth Defects and Genetic Diseases Br, Div of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Center for Environmental Health, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: YPLL statistics understate the full public health impact of congenital anomalies. This is, in part, because anomalies in infants who die shortly after birth may not be diagnosed, and the infants' deaths are, therefore, not attributed to congenital anomalies. Perhaps more importantly, YPLL statistics are based only on live-born infants. This leads to underestimation because a substantial number of babies with anomalies are stillborn and an even greater number of malformed fetuses are aborted spontaneously.

Improvements in the care of individuals with some types of congenital anomalies may reduce YPLL in the future. Primary prevention is the ultimate goal, however, because many who now survive infancy with congenital anomalies face a lifetime of morbidity. Such prevention will require the discovery of the causes of anomalies which are known to operate during the first trimester of pregnancy at the time of embryogenesis and organogenesis.

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