Early discharge of preterm infants needing limited special care, followed by domiciliary nursing care

Acta Paediatr. 1999 Sep;88(9):1024-30. doi: 10.1080/08035259950168568.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of early discharge, followed by domiciliary nursing care, on infant health and utilization of health services in preterm infants still in need of special care (mainly gavage feeding). In total, 88 infants who were physiologically stable, but in need of further special care such as gavage feeding, were allocated to an early discharge group (EDG = 45 infants) and offered home visits by a nurse backed up by a neonatologist, or to a control group offered standard neonatal care (CG = 43 infants). Infants in the EDG spent 30.6 d (mean) in hospital after birth compared with 46.3 d in the CG (p = 0.003). On average, the domiciliary nurse spent 10.4 h with each family in the EDG, including a median number of 5 home visits, scheduled telephone contact and travelling time. The infants had a mean of 1.7 scheduled visits and 0.4 unscheduled visits to the neonatal ward. The domiciliary nurse received a mean of 0.9 telephone calls from the parents. When the period of domiciliary care in the EDG (post-conceptional age 35.9-38.7 wk) was compared with the corresponding time in hospital in the CG (post-conceptional age 35.6-38.6 wk), no statistical differences were observed in infant health, surgical procedures or medication. However, a reduced incidence of respiratory infections was observed in the EDG (6 versus 16 infants; p = 0.02). Nine infants in the EDG were re-hospitalized. The two groups did not differ in the numbers of rehospitalizations and non-elective contacts with the health services during the first year after discharge. In conclusion, early discharge of preterm infants still requiring special care, followed by domiciliary nursing care, was associated neither with an increased utilization of health services after discharge, nor with infant morbidity after discharge. More information on safety is needed before widespread early discharge can be advocated.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status
  • Home Care Services*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal*
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Research Design
  • Retrospective Studies