Objective: To investigate the effect of preterm birth, the time of birth, and birth hospital level and district on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs).
Study design: This national study included all very low birth weight infants (VLBWIs; birth weight <or= 1500 g or gestational age < 32 weeks) born in Finland between 2000 and 2003 (n = 1169; live-born, n = 900) and full-term controls (n = 368). Register data and parental questionnaires were used. The relationships among HRQoL and QALYs at age 5 years and preterm birth, time of birth, and the level and district of the birth hospital were studied.
Results: HRQoL at age 5 years was lower and 1.3 QALYs were lost in VLBWIs compared with controls. Regional differences in the QALYs of VLBWIs were found among the 5 university hospital districts. Birth hospital level or birth outside office hours had no effect on the QALYs of live-born VLBWIs. The adjusted HRQoL total score was not affected by birth outside office hours or by the birth hospital level or district.
Conclusions: Differences in QALYs related to hospital district suggest variation in the care of VLBWIs that needs to be addressed.