Background: Apnea of prematurity, a common disorder, can severely compromise an infant's condition unless correctly diagnosed and treated. Infants with a history of apnea of prematurity can be discharged home but then be rehospitalized for an apneic event, an apparent life-threatening event, or sudden infant death syndrome. The definition of a clinically significant cardiopulmonary event, such events' documentation, and the treatment approach were standardized, and discharge criteria were refined.
Methods: A prospective, single-center comparison was conducted between a group of premature infants before and after implementation of the standard approach. Data were collected prospectively from August 1, 2005, through July 21, 2006, for the prestandard-approach group and from August 1, 2006, through September 16, 2007, for the standard-approach group.
Results: Twenty-two (35%) of the 63 infants in the prestandard-approach group experienced discharge delays because of poor documentation, whereby the clinician could not determine the safety of discharge. This resulted in 59 additional hospital days (mean length-of-stay [LOS] increase, 5.7 days). The standard-approach group of 72 infants experienced no discharge delays and no additional hospital days, and LOS decreased (all p < .0001). Annual charges were reduced by more than $58,000 in avoiding unnecessary hospital days. Readmission to the hospital for apnea of prematurity occurred for 5 (7.9%) of the prestandard-approach group but none of the standard-approach group (p = .0203). Overall compliance with the standardization process has been maintained at > or = 96%.
Conclusion: Implementation of a standard approach to the definition of apnea of prematurity and its treatment and documentation decreases LOS and reduces cost.