The Cost of Prematurity: Hospital Charges at Birth and Frequency of Rehospitalizations and Acute Care Visits over the First Year of Life

VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, Miami, FL, USA.
The American Journal of Nursing (Impact Factor: 1.3). 08/2005; 105(7):56-64; quiz 65. DOI: 10.1097/00000446-200507000-00031
Source: PubMed


The proportion of preterm and low-birth-weight infants has been growing steadily for two decades. Most of the more than US 10 billion dollars spent on neonatal care in the United States in 2003 was spent on the 12.3% of infants who were born preterm. Research has shown higher initial hospital costs and a higher rate of acute care visits and rehospitalization for preterm and low-birth-weight infants, but only a limited number of studies of the cost of prematurity that follow infants through the first year of life have been conducted. This study is a secondary analysis of data on a subset of infants drawn from a randomized clinical trial that examined health outcomes and health care costs in women with high-risk pregnancies and their infants. For the current study, a sample of 84 singleton infants was chosen. Forty-three infants (51%) were full term (37 weeks' gestation or more) and 41 (49%) were born preterm (less than 37 weeks' gestation). Fifty-five infants (65.5%) were born at normal birth weights (2,500 g or greater), 24 (28.5%) were born at low birth weights (1,501 to 2,499 g), and five (6%) were born at very low birth weights (less than 1,500 g). Data on the initial hospital charges and the rates of rehospitalization and acute care visits in the first year of life in relation to gestational age and birth weight were collected. The results clearly demonstrated that the charges for initial hospitalizations increased as birth weights and gestational ages decreased. Low-birth-weight infants were less likely to have unscheduled acute care visits than normal-birth-weight infants. Interventions to improve prenatal care targeted to women at high risk for delivering preterm or low-birth-weight infants would reduce health care costs and improve health outcomes of infants as well.

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