Although survival rates for preterm infants have greatly improved over the last three to four decades, these infants remain at risk of developing a broad range of short-term and long-term complications. Despite the large body of work on the clinical sequelae of preterm birth, relatively little is known about its economic consequences. This paper represents a structured review of the recent scientific literature on the economic consequences of preterm birth for the health services, for other sectors of the economy, for families and carers and, more broadly, for society. A total of 2497 studies were identified by a pretested literature search strategy, 52 of which were included in the final review. Of these 52 studies, 19 reported the costs associated with the initial period of hospitalisation, 35 reported costs incurred following the initial hospital discharge (without providing costs for the entire remaining period of childhood), four of which also reported costs associated with the initial period of hospitalisation, while two reported costs incurred throughout childhood. The paper highlights the variable methodological quality of this body of literature. The results of the studies included in the review are summarised and critically appraised. The paper also highlights gaps in our current knowledge of the topic and identifies requirements for further research in this area.
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