The length of stay of preterm babies discharged from a neonatal nursery was determined and the predictive value of perinatal factors on the duration of stay was assessed on 762 preterm Salford born babies admitted to Hope Hospital neonatal unit between April 1986 and November 1990. The data were analysed using multiple logistical regression and forward stepwise regression analysis. Babies were discharged at a median (quartile range) postconceptional age of 36.3 (35.3-37.6) weeks. Seventeen factors were found to be strongly predictive of discharge date. The most significant predictive factor was gestational age accounting for 40% of variability compared with respiratory difficulties (6%), low birth weight (4%), sepsis (2%), and metabolic problems (1%). Most babies are discharged at approximately the same postconceptional age despite variations in their clinical course. Gestational age at birth is the most powerful predictive factor of time of discharge.
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