Hospital length of stay among children with and without congenital anomalies across 11 European regions—A population-based data linkage study
Congenital anomalies are a major cause of poor health in childhood. This EUROlinkCAT study investigated hospitalisations and length of stay for 99,414 children with congenital anomalies and 2 million children without congenital anomalies (reference children) in 11 regions in eight countries. The children were born between 1995 and 2014 and were followed to their tenth birthday or 31/12/2015. The study showed that 17 out of 20 children (85%) with congenital anomalies were hospitalised in the first year decreasing to 11 out of 20 children (56%) at age 1-4 years. The percentages for reference children were 31% and 25%, respectively. The median length of stay in hospital was 2-3 times longer for children with congenital anomalies in both age groups. Among children who were hospitalised in the first year of life, the percentages with one or more hospital stays lasting 10 days or more were 24% for children with congenital anomalies and 1% for reference children. The median length of stay varied greatly between subgroups of specific congenital anomaly. Children with gastrointestinal anomalies and congenital heart defects had the longest stays. Parents of children with congenital anomalies should be informed about the increased likelihood of lengthy hospitalisations with their child, particularly in the first year of the child’s life, and the associated challenges it creates for having a normal family life and taking care of siblings. The outlook is more positive beyond the first year, where most children require fewer and shorter stays in hospital, though the hospitalisations still exceed those of children without congenital anomalies. Therefore, parents of children with congenital anomalies should be adequately supported, not only by health care professionals, but also by relevant authorities and by national health and social policies.
Submitted version of paper prior to publication