Objective. To determine the impact of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) on length of stay and hospital charges.
Design. Case-control study.
Setting. Two neonatal intensive care units in an academic medical center.
Patients. Infants born in 1992–1994 with birth weight <1500 g, matched by gestational age, hospital, and month of birth.
Measurements and Main Results. We performed odds ratio and t testing. As with previous studies, there was no single factor that increased the risk for developing NEC. However, the diagnosis of NEC increased the risk for death, infection, and the need for central line placement. Infants with surgical NEC had lengths of stay that exceeded those of controls by 60 days, whereas lengths of stay among infants with medical NEC exceeded those of controls by 22 days. Based on length of stay, the estimated total hospital charges for infants with surgical NEC averaged $186 200 in excess of those for controls and $73 700 more for infants with medical NEC. The yearly additional hospital charges for NEC were $6.5 million or $216 666 per survivor.
Conclusions. A diagnosis of NEC in the very low birth weight infant imposes a significant additional financial burden to the individual patient as well as the neonatal community as a whole. This expense justifies additional research into preventive measures and potentially costly therapies aimed at reducing the incidence of NEC. These data also provide an estimated cost to compare the cost effectiveness of new preventive measures for NEC.