Original Research

Discharge Medical Complexity, Change in Medical Complexity and Pediatric 30-day Readmission


BACKGROUND: While medical complexity is associated with pediatric readmission risk, less is known about how increases in medical complexity during hospitalization affect readmission risk.
METHODS: We conducted a five-year retrospective, case-control study of pediatric hospitalizations at a tertiary care children’s hospital. Cases with a 30-day unplanned readmission were matched to controls based on admission seasonality and distance from the hospital. Complexity variables included the number of medications prescribed at discharge, medical technology, and the need for home healthcare services. Change in medical complexity variables included new complex chronic conditions and new medical technology. We estimated odds of 30-day unplanned readmission using adjusted conditional logistic regression.
RESULTS: Of 41,422 eligible index hospitalizations, we included 595 case and 595 control hospitalizations. Complexity: Polypharmacy after discharge was common. In adjusted analyses, being discharged with ≥2 medications was associated with higher odds of readmission compared with being discharged without medication; children with ≥5 discharge medications had a greater than four-fold higher odds of readmission. Children assisted by technology had higher odds of readmission compared with children without technology assistance. Change in complexity: New diagnosis of a complex chronic condition (Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR) = 1.75; 1.11-2.75) and new technology (AOR = 1.84; 1.09-3.10) were associated with higher risk of readmission when adjusting for patient characteristics. However, these associations were not statistically significant when adjusting for length of stay.
CONCLUSION: Polypharmacy and use of technology at discharge pose a substantial readmission risk for children. However, added technology and new complex chronic conditions do not increase risk when accounting for length of stay.

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