Background: The rising incidence of gastroschisis has been highlighted by the Department of Health as a growing concern. As well as the health implications for the increasing number of affected infants, this increase in incidence will have an impact of the costs of health care. This study was undertaken to estimate the financial cost of treating this condition in one tertiary neonatal surgical center.
Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed of all patients admitted to a tertiary neonatal surgical center with gastroschisis from January 1996 to December 2005. The main outcome measures were incidence, length of hospital stay, and total cost for all patients each year.
Results: The incidence of gastroschisis has risen 3-fold in 10 years. The median cost per patient is relatively constant. A few patients with severe intestinal dysmotility require prolonged hospital stay. As the condition becomes more common, there are an increasing number of complex patients and thus an increase in annual costs, which is disproportionate to the increase in numbers of cases. We estimate that the annual cost to the National Health Service (NHS) of this condition in England and Wales has risen from pound3.6 million in 1996 to in excess of pound15 million in 2005.
Conclusions: Urgent research is required into the etiology of gastroschisis and into the severe intestinal dysmotility that occurs in some complex patients.