The Delaware Birth Defects Registry team won a first-place award from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network for a poster that demonstrates the value of uniform case-reporting criteria across states.
The poster, presented in Atlanta in February, looked at a group of fetal and newborn renal abnormalities in Delaware from 2007 to 2009. States vary in the way they collect data on birth defects, said research scientist Kristin M. Maiden, Ph.D., of Christiana’s Center for Women’s, Infants’ and Children’s Research, a co-author of the poster. When looking at kidney abnormalities, some states, including Delaware, count all cases; others count only those significant enough to require surgery. And many don’t reveal what, exactly, they count.
Christiana Care researchers reported 291 cases within a group of renal abnormalities, Maiden said. When cases such that resolved on their own or were deemed medically insignificant were excluded, the total dropped to 31 cases that required surgical intervention, bringing Delaware in line with other states known to count cases similarly.
The research team argues that “not only should we try to come up with the same collection criteria, but if not, we should at least report the criteria,” Maiden said.
Massachusetts reports only the renal defects requiring surgery, she said, so that state was used as a comparator, and when the same criteria were used, Delaware’s case numbers turned out to be “pretty equal,’’ she said.
The poster won in the Case Ascertainment’ category because it argued for such standardization, she said.
In a poster presented by the Delaware Birth Defects Registry Team last year at the same meeting, similar reporting discrepancies were noted when counting congenital heart defects, said Louis E. Bartoshesky, M.D., MPH, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics. Initially, it appeared that Delaware’s rates were high, but “it was a matter of definition. We counted every one and others counted only those that did not resolve spontaneously.’’
By accumulating data on birth defects, trends can be spotted that could lead to improved public health policies. “The nature of birth-defect registries is to identify patterns and frequencies,’’ he said, but a lack of uniformity in criteria could lead to mistaken conclusions. “The point of the abstract is that all states should look at the data in the same way. It’s a step toward asking states to look more carefully at what we’re doing and trying to come up with something more consistent.’’