Objective: To examine the trends in hospital readmissions in the first year of life and identify whether changes in maternal and infant risk factors explain any changes.
Design: Population-based study using de-identified linked health data.
Participants: All 788 798 live-born infants delivered in New South Wales from 1 January 2001 to 31 December 2009 with a linked birth and hospital record.
Main outcome measures: The number of infants readmitted to hospital at least once after discharge home from the birth admission to 1 year of age, per 100 live births each year, and changes in maternal and infant risk factors assessed by logistic regression.
Results: The number of infants readmitted to hospital up to age 1 year decreased by 10.5% (average annual reduction, 1.8%; 95% CI, − 1.7% to − 0.01%, P = 0.001), from 18.4 per 100 births in 2001 to 16.5 in 2009. Fifty-five per cent of this decrease could be explained by changes in factors that are associated with likelihood of hospitalisation; length of stay during the birth admission, maternal age and maternal smoking. The rate of readmissions for jaundice and feeding difficulties increased significantly over the study period, while readmissions for infections decreased.
Conclusions: There has been a decrease in the rate of infants readmitted to hospital in the first year of life, which can be partly explained by increasing maternal age, decreasing maternal smoking and a shift to shorter length of hospital stay at birth. Improved maternal and neonatal care in hospital and increased postnatal support at home may have contributed to reduced risk of readmission.
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