Introduction Mortality for infants born with very-low birthweight (VLBW, 500-1499 grams) is markedly higher than for babies born with normal birthweight (2500-4000 grams). Although these high-risk infants show better outcomes in advanced care settings, only 80 % of VLBW infants born in South Carolina (SC) are delivered in hospitals with a level-III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The purpose of this research project was to assess geographic access to delivery hospitals and risk of neonatal death among singleton VLBW infants born in SC. Methods The linked birth and death records of a cross-sectional, population-based study of singleton VLBW infants born in SC between 2010 and 2012 were used (n = 2030). We assessed the impact of travel time from maternal residence to delivery hospital. Logistic regression modeling was performed with adjustments for maternal, newborn, and hospital characteristics. Results The neonatal mortality rate among singleton VLBW infants was 11.03 deaths per 100 live births in 2010-2012. We did not find a significant association between travel time to delivery hospital and neonatal mortality after adjusting for confounders. However, we found that a 1-week increase in gestational age (odds ratio (OR): 0.61) and non-Hispanic black mothers (versus non-Hispanic white mothers) (OR: 0.68) were associated with lower odds of neonatal death, whereas non-NICU admission at birth (OR: 5.90) was associated with increased odds of death. The results of the sensitivity analyses including both singleton and multiple births did not yield significant results for travel time and neonatal mortality in VLBW infants. Discussion Although we found no significant association between travel time and neonatal mortality in singleton VLBW births in SC, we identified significant factors consistent with those found in previous studies that may affect neonatal mortality.
Keywords: Access to health care; Geographic information systems; Neonatal mortality.