Inpatient care for children with severe traumatic brain injury (sTBI) is expensive, with inpatient charges averaging over $70,000 per case (Hospital Inpatient, Children Only, National Statistics. Diagnoses- clinical classification software (CCS) principal diagnosis category 85 coma, stupor, and brain damage, and 233 intracranial injury. Diagnoses by Aggregate charges [ https://hcupnet.ahrq.gov/#setup ]). This ranks sTBI in the top quartile of pediatric conditions with the greatest inpatient costs (Hospital Inpatient, Children Only, National Statistics. Diagnoses- clinical classification software (CCS) principal diagnosis category 85 coma, stupor, and brain damage, and 233 intracranial injury. Diagnoses by Aggregate charges [ https://hcupnet.ahrq.gov/#setup ]). The Brain Trauma Foundation developed sTBI intensive care guidelines in 2003, with revisions in 2012 (Kochanek, Carney, et. al. PCCM 3:S1-S2, 2012). These guidelines have been widely disseminated, and are associated with improved health outcomes (Pineda, Leonard. et. al. LN 12:45-52, 2013), yet research on the cost of associated hospital care is limited. The objective of this study was to assess the costs of providing hospital care to sTBI patients through a guideline-based Pediatric Neurocritical Care Program (PNCP) implemented at St. Louis Children's Hospital, a pediatric academic medical center in the Midwest United States.
This is a retrospective cohort study. We used multi-level regression to estimate pre-/post-implementation effects of the PNCP program on inflation adjusted total cost of in-hospital sTBI care. The study population included 58 pediatric patient discharges in the pre-PNCP implementation group (July 15, 1999 - September 17, 2005), and 59 post-implementation patient discharges (September 18, 2005 - January 15, 2012).
Implementation of the PNCP was associated with a non-significant difference in the cost of care between the pre- and post-implementation periods (eβ = 1.028, p = 0.687).
Implementation of the PNCP to support delivery of guideline-based care for children with sTBI did not change the total per-patient cost of in-hospital care. A key strength of this study was its use of hospital cost data rather than charges. Future research should consider the longitudinal post-hospitalization costs of this approach to sTBI care.