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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2013 Sep;209(3):217.e1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2013.06.046. Epub 2013 Jun 29.

Costs of unnecessary admissions and treatments for "threatened preterm labor".

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, St Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA.



Cervical length (CL) of 3 cm or greater has been shown to have a 97-99% negative predictive value for preterm delivery in women with threatened preterm labor. Consequently, hospitalization and treatment are not indicated in these patients. We analyzed how often patients with a CL of 3 cm or greater are still being admitted and treated for preterm labor and how much this contributes to the economic burden of preterm labor hospitalizations.


Twelve month hospitalizations for preterm labor at less than 34 weeks at a single institution were reviewed and patients with a CL of 3 cm or greater were identified. We chose to use patients' hospital charges as a surrogate for health care costs, recognizing that charges are not synonymous with the final patient bill and also do not reflect additional costs such as the cost of treatment at the referring facility, transportation, physician fees, and other such costs as lost wages, need for additional child care, etc.


Between July 2009 and June 2010, 139 patients were admitted and treated for preterm labor at our level III center. Fifty of these patients (36%) had a CL of 3 cm or greater. None of them delivered preterm. Total hospital charges for the management of these patients were $1,018 589 (mean, $20,372; median, $14,444).


Unnecessary admissions and treatments for threatened preterm labor are part of clinical practice and contribute to exploding health care costs. Using currently available diagnostics, these costs could be lowered significantly without jeopardizing outcome.

Copyright © 2013 Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.


cervical length; costs; preterm birth

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