AIM: To determine the extra cost of healthcare associated with low birthweight, in a cohort study of a geographically defined population in five health districts that comprise Merseyside. METHODS: The study comprised all children of birthweight < or = 1500 g and a 10% random sample of those weighing 1501-2000 g, without clinical disability, born in 1980 and 1981 to mothers resident in Merseyside, and their controls, matched by age, sex, and school class, followed up to age 8-9 years. RESULTS: The cost of care associated with the initial admission to the neonatal special/intensive care unit and subsequent use of hospital and family practitioner services was assessed. There were 641 survivors without disability and 227 non-survivors who weighed < or = 2000 g at birth. The mean cost of neonatal care per low birthweight child was 13 times greater than for a control child. For children weighing < or = 1000 g at birth, neonatal costs were 55 times greater than for the control children. Low birthweight children continue to use hospital and family practitioner services more intensively than controls to age 8-9 years. CONCLUSION: Low birthweight children used hospital and family practitioner services more intensively throughout the follow up period. Whether the increased use of health services persists into adolescence and adulthood is yet to be determined
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