THURSDAY, July 7, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Very small babies can lead to very large hospital bills, a new study finds. In fact, the average cost of caring for the tiniest newborns now exceeds $200,000, according to researchers.
They also warn that rising costs will become an even more significant issue, due to the increasing use of assisted reproductive technology and improved neonatal care.
"Although research has shown higher hospital costs for preterm and low-birth-weight infants, only a few studies have examined rates of acute care visits and rehospitalizations in infants during the first year of life," study co-author Dorothy Brooten, professor at Florida International University School of Nursing, said in a prepared statement.
She and her colleagues studied 84 babies in order to compare initial hospital costs for preterm babies, low-birth-weight babies, full-term babies and normal-weight babies. Of those babies, 43 were full term, 41 were preterm, 55 had normal birth weights, 24 had low birth weights and five had very low birth weights (less than 1,500 g).
Mean hospital charges ranged from $4,816 for normal-weight infants to $205,204 for infants with very low birth weights. According to the study, average hospital charges ranged from $4,788 for babies born after 36 weeks gestation to $239,749 for babies born between 26 and 28 weeks gestation.
The study was published in the June issue of the American Journal of Nursing.
"Prematurity risk is known to be reduced by early and frequent prenatal care, but often, those most at risk don't have access to adequate care," Margaret Comerford Freda, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and women's health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.
"Reducing the number of preterm and low-birth-weight births will require more comprehensive education for infertile couples who seek technologic solutions to their infertility as well as affordable prenatal care for low-income couples," said Freda, who is also chair of the National Nurse Advisory Council for the March of Dimes.
The March of Dimes has more about premature babies.