High-risk newborns are known to have higher than average utilization of services after discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Most studies on this subject report aggregate data over periods ranging from 1 to 3 years postdischarge. Little is known about events that are temporally close to NICU discharge.
To characterize rehospitalizations within the first 2 weeks after discharge from six community NICUs.
We scanned electronic databases and reviewed the charts of rehospitalized infants from six NICUs in the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program. We subdivided infants into five groups based on gestational age (GA) and birth hospitalization length of stay (LOS): 1) ≥37 weeks' GA with <4 days LOS (n = 2593); 2) ≥37 weeks' GA with ≥4 days' LOS (n = 1133); 3) from 33 to 36 weeks' GA with <4 days' LOS (n = 545); 4) from 33 to 36 weeks' GA with ≥4 days' LOS (n = 1196); and 5) <33 weeks' GA (n = 587). We performed bivariate and multivariate analyses to identify predictors that might be useful for practitioners.
There were 6054 newborns discharged alive from the six study NICUs between August 1, 1992 and December 31, 1995, and 99.5% of these infants remained in the health plan during the 2 weeks after NICU discharge. The overall rehospitalization rate was 2.72%, which is 20% higher than the rate among healthy term newborns in the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program (2.26%). The two most common reasons for rehospitalization were jaundice (62/165, 37.6%) and feeding difficulties (25/165, 15.2%). Infants with 33 to 36 weeks' GA and <4 days' LOS were rehospitalized at a significantly higher rate than were all other infants (5.69%); 71% of infants in this group were rehospitalized for jaundice. The following variables predicted rehospitalization in multivariate models: <33 weeks' GA (adjusted OR [AOR]: 1.88; 95% CI: 1.10–3.21), from 33 to 36 weeks' GA with <96 hours' LOS (AOR: 2.94; 95% CI: 1.87–4.62), and birth at facility B, which had the highest rehospitalization rate of the six facilities (AOR: 1.92; 95% CI: 1.39–2.65).
The rate of rehospitalization among NICU graduates is higher than among healthy term infants. Most of the rehospitalizations among infants with from 33 to 36 weeks' GA and <4 days' LOS are for illnesses that are not life-threatening. Collaborative studies and new process and outcomes measures are needed to assess the effectiveness of follow-up strategies in high-risk newborns.