Aim: To determine length of hospital stay (LOS) for moderately preterm infants during the last 20 years, and to identify factors affecting the number of bed-days.
Methods: Review of LOS for all infants delivered between 30 to 34 gestational weeks during 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998 and 2002.
Exclusion criteria: life-threatening abnormalities, chromosomal anomalies and death during hospitalization.
Results: 564 included infants accounted for 20% of admissions and 48% of bed-days in the neonatal unit. Between 1983 and 2002, maternal age and use of nasal continuous positive airway pressure increased, use of antibiotics and mechanical ventilation decreased, whereas distributions for gestational age, birthweight, gender, smallness for gestational age, low Apgar score or incidence of respiratory distress syndrome did not change. For healthy inborn singletons discharged home, LOS decreased from 1983 (28+/-11 d, mean+/-SD values) to 2002 (14+/-7 d, p<0.05). Infants born more immature had longer LOS, but postconceptional age at discharge did not differ between age groups.
Conclusion: LOS for moderately preterm infants has decreased as a result of individualized neonatal care and organization of homecare support. Shorter LOS is of benefit to the family, prevents overcrowding in the NICU and has important economic implications.