The occurrence of Down syndrome and the number of fatalities related to the condition have decreased among American children, according to a new study. However, Black children with Down syndrome remain twice as likely to die.
A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics tracked 16,506 infants, born between 1983 and 2003 in 10 different sections of the country. Researchers found that survival rates in the first month of life have remained relatively steady, but the rates of survival to ages 1, 5, and 20 have all increased.
However, a disparity remains between survival rates of White and Black children with Down syndrome.
“The survival of children born with [Down syndrome] has improved and racial disparities in infant survival have narrowed,” said the report, published in December. “However, compared with non-Hispanic White children, non-Hispanic Black children have lower survival beyond infancy.”
According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African American infants with Down syndrome are twice as likely to succumb to complications related to the condition.
Children born at 3.3 pounds or less, which can occur naturally or as a result of smoking while pregnant, are 24 times more likely to die.
Heart health also plays a major part in survival rate, according to the Pediatrics report.
“Congenital heart defects are a significant risk factor for mortality through age twenty,” the study found, putting the increased risk at five times that seen with children born without the condition.
Humans typically have two sets of 23 chromosomes, or a total of 46 gene pockets that control development both inside and outside of the womb, according to the CDC.
Children with Down syndrome, however, have a total of three copies of the chromosome 21, which can affect how a child develops mentally and physically. Roughly one infant out of every 700 born will have Down syndrome.
While there is no way to prevent the development of Down syndrome, having a baby after age 35 dramatically increases the risk of giving birth to an infant with the condition, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The organization strongly recommends that every pregnant woman make use of the tests available to determine risk of the syndrome and other chromosomal disorders, no matter what their age. The tests include ultrasounds should be taken within the first 20 weeks of every pregnancy.
According to the organization, blood tests and specific ultrasounds can show doctors early warning signs for Down syndrome by getting accurate readings on the “thickness of the neck and back area,” one indicator of the presence of the condition.