Despite significant technological improvements, children reliant on long-term mechanical ventilation often require extensive additional care, including costly hospital stays and emergency visits, according to a new study led by University of Michigan researchers. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that children with complex chronic conditions, such as lung failure in children with muscular dystrophy and premature birth, who require long-term mechanical ventilation have significantly higher mortality, longer length of hospitalizations, higher mean charges, and more emergency department admissions.

Prior to this study, researchers were unclear as to how often long-term mechanical ventilation was used and how often children requiring use of such technology were admitted for additional care. For this study, the researchers analyzed trends in relevant discharges nationally between 2000 and 2006. They looked at all hospitalizations for children 0 to 20 years of age requiring long-term mechanical ventilation.

They found that the length of initial hospitalizations for children requiring long-term mechanical ventilation remained the same between 2000 and 2006, but total admissions (for these children) were up 55%.

In addition, the researchers found that infants and young children consume the highest proportion of health care resources for this particular demographic. While infants less than 1 year old made up 25% of this population, they used about 50% of the health care resources for all the children requiring long-term medical ventilation. The study also found that infants have the longest length of hospitalization and the highest in-hospital mortality rates.

The findings of this study also showed a 55% growth in additional hospitalizations for children needing long-term mechanical ventilation support and a 70% increase in subsequent health care cost. Analysis further showed that in the final years of the study, the demand for additional care was greatest in patients between 1 and 4 years of age.

Source: University of Michigan Health System