Author(s): Lustbader AS, Mayes LC, McGee BA, Jatlow P, Roberts WL
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Abstract OBJECTIVES: Passive exposure to crack/cocaine and the associated clinical symptoms may present a significant health risk to very young infants and children. This study was designed to determine the incidence of cocaine exposure, presumed to be passive, in ill infants younger than 1 year of age, using a threshold of detection for cocaine and/or its major metabolite, benzoylecognine (BE), that is lower than the current National Institute on Drug Abuse standard. The study also investigates the morbidity associated with passive cocaine exposure in this population. METHODS: We prospectively obtained 124 samples of urine from 122 children younger than 1 year of age for routine clinical indications from the emergency department at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Samples were analyzed by radioimmunoassay (RIA) for cocaine, with cross-reactivity for BE. The presence of BE in a portion of the RIA-positive samples also was detected in additional analyses by enzyme-multiplied immunoassay technique or by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. A chart review was conducted on all 122 patients by reviewers blind to the urine toxicology results. Presenting complaints, symptoms, vital signs, and diagnosis were obtained for all visits before the first birthday. Birth history, including maternal drug history and birth weight, demographics, and number of medical visits in the first year, were recorded as well. RESULTS: Of the 124 samples, 45 (36.3\%) were positive (>/=50 ng/mL of BE equivalents) for cocaine and/or cocaine metabolite by RIA testing. The positive results, determined by RIA, were highly correlated with patients who had lower and upper respiratory symptoms and sought medical care more often. CONCLUSIONS: The incidence of unsuspected, passive cocaine exposure in ill infants seeking medical care primarily through an emergency service may be as high as 1 in 3 to 6 infants from our predominantly inner city population. Current immunoassay methods, specific for BE, and their routine threshold of detection (200 to 300 ng/mL) may not be sensitive enough to detect cocaine and BE in the urine samples of children younger than 1 year of age who are exposed passively. The development of upper and lower respiratory symptoms is correlated significantly with positive urine results in this study. The increased use of health care resources correlated with passive cocaine exposure in this sample may serve as an indirect marker for the increased medical needs of these infants.
This article was published in Pediatrics
and referenced in Emergency Medicine: Open Access