The cost of medical care in the United States is under close scrutiny. Birth defects have surpassed prematurity as the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States and contribute significantly to infant morbidity. Few estimates have been made of the costs of individual birth defects. The authors sought to determine the cost of initial hospitalization for an infant with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). They analyzed hospital bills and professional fees from all 35 cases of infants who underwent postnatal CDH repair at their institution between January 1990 and December 1993. The cost averaged $137,000 per patient, and ECMO dramatically increased the cost. The cost per survivor was $98,000 in the non-ECMO group and $365,000 in the ECMO group. The estimated cost of CDH per year in the United States is more than $230 million. This study suggests several strategies for cost reduction, provides data for future cost comparisons, and serves as a cost comparison for evaluating new therapeutic strategies for CDH.
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