Objective. To investigate the effect of hospital discharge time on neonatal mortality of term newborns.
Design. Infants who were discharged home at 5 days of age or younger and who subsequently died were compared with control infants using a retrospective casecontrol design. Descriptive information was collected from records of infants who were not discharged home from the hospital of birth (because of death or transfer to a tertiary care hospital) to determine the age at which their illnesses presented.
Methods. We reviewed death certificates for all infacts with birth weights of 2500 g or greater born at 37 weeks' gestational age or greater who died in the first 28 days of life and who were born in one of four Utah counties (1985 through 1989). Of the 109 256 eligible births, 115 infants were found who had died in the neonatal period. Eighty-four infants had not been discharged home from the hospital of birth, 5 infants had had hospital stays of more than 5 days, 9 records could not be located, 17 presumed healthy infants were discharged from the hospital at 5 days of age or younger. These 17 infants were each matched with 3 control infants. Newborn nursery charts were reviewed to determine hospital discharge times for case and control infants. Descriptive information regarding the time of presentation of illness was collected for the other 89 infants.
Results. The mean age of hospital discharge was 43 ± 21 hours for the 17 case infants and 47 ± 25 hours for the 51 control infants. The odds ratio for neonatal mortality for discharge at less than 24 hours was 1.65 (95% confidence interval, 0.42 to 3.34) and for discharge at less than 48 hours was 1.16 (95% confidence interval, 0.4 to 3.34). Of the 84 infants who were not discharged home from the hospital of birth, 93% had been symptomatic by 12 hours of age, and 99% were symptomatic by 18 hours.
Conclusions. Most full-term infants who die in the neonatal period are symptomatic within the first 18 hours after birth. We could not demonstrate an association between early hospital discharge and neonatal mortality in those infants who died after discharge home.
- Received June 22, 1995.
- Accepted October 6, 1995.
- Copyright © 1996 by the American Academy of Pediatrics