Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether neonatal mortality rates for very low birth weight (500 to 1499 g) infants born in South Carolina differ by level of perinatal services available at the hospital of birth.
Study design: Linked live birth certificates and infant death certificates for 1993 through 1995 were used. Birth weight-specific neonatal mortality rates among 2375 very low birth weight infants were estimated and analyzed by race and by level of perinatal services at the hospital of birth. Rates were compared with chi2 analysis.
Results: Seventy-eight percent of very low birth weight deliveries occurred in level III hospitals. The overall neonatal mortality rate was 178 deaths/1000 very low birth weight live births. Neonatal mortality rates, adjusted for birth weight and race, were significantly higher (P < .05) for infants born in level I hospitals (267 deaths/1000 live births), all level II hospitals (232 deaths/1000 live births), and level II hospitals with neonatologists (213 deaths/1000 live births) than for infants born in level III centers (146 deaths/1000 live births).
Conclusion: Very low birth weight infants are more likely to survive if born in level III hospitals than in level I or II facilities, with or without neonatologists. Obstetric providers should support public health efforts and perinatal health systems to ensure that all women have access to a strong system of risk-appropriate perinatal care.