Background: It is conceivable that a complicated recovery course in a high-risk premature infant managed at home generates apprehension and anxiety in parents.
Aims: We attempted to define the evolution of anxiety levels in a population of parents of low-birth-weight premature infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia enrolled in a prospective home O(2) therapy program.
Study design: In the immediate pre-discharge [mean postnatal age 95 (45-158) days], a questionnaire (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory form Y) was given to all parents of the premature infants [mean birth weight 1106 (0.610-1.770) kg; mean gestational age 27.1 (24-31) weeks] present for the discharge. Subsequently, the parents were assessed twice, initially after a week from the discharge of their infants and then at the end of the oxygen therapy phase [mean postnatal age 185 (60-361) days]. They included 10 mothers and 10 fathers, aged 33.5+/-0.5 and 37+/-0.2 years, respectively.
Results: Our results indicate that these parents present an increased state anxiety level upon hospital discharge of their oxygen-dependent premature infants, which decreases as the improvement of respiratory status and the cessation of oxygen-dependency become evident [mean+/-S.D. related to age (T) maternal values 47.1+/-7.0, 41.8+/-5.6, 39.1+/-4.7, respectively; mean+/-S.D. related to age (T) paternal values 42.2+/-8.5, 41.1+/-8.1, 40.5+/-8.2, respectively]. When assessed separately by parental gender, in the maternal group, state anxiety decreased significantly (ANOVA, p<0.05).
Conclusions: These data indicate that although neonatologists generally define the discharge of prematures with chronic lung disease based upon the acquired stabilization of vital parameters, in the oxygen-dependent group, they should also pay special attention to the emotional support of the parents who we have identified as being at increased risk for pre-discharge anxiety.