Since Italy has the highest cesarean section (CS) rate (38.1%) among all European countries, the containment of health care costs associated with CS is needed, along with control of length of hospital stay (LOS) following CS. This population based cross-sectional study aims to investigate LoS post CS (overall CS, OCS; planned CS, PCS; urgent/emergency CS, UCS), in Friuli Venezia Giulia (a region of North-Eastern Italy) during 2005–2015, adjusting for a considerable number factors, including various obstetric conditions/complications. Maternal and newborn characteristics (health care setting and timeframe; maternal health factors; child’s size factors; child’s fragility factors; socio-demographic background; obstetric history; obstetric conditions) were used as independent variables. LoS (post OCS, PCS, UCS) was the outcome measure. The statistical analysis was conducted with multivariable linear (LoS expressed as adjusted mean, in days) as well as logistic (adjusted proportion of LoS > 4 days vs. LoS ≤ 4 days, using a 4 day cutoff for early discharge, ED) regression. An important decreasing trend over time in mean LoS and LoS > ED was observed for both PCS and UCS. LoS post CS was shorter with parity and history of CS, whereas it was longer among non-EU mothers. Several obstetric conditions/complications were associated with extended LoS. Whilst eclampsia/pre-eclampsia and preterm gestations (33–36 weeks) were predominantly associated with longer LoS post UCS, for PCS LoS was significantly longer with birthweight 2.0–2.5 kg, multiple birth and increasing maternal age. Strong significant inter-hospital variation remained after adjustment for the major clinical conditions. This study shows that routinely collected administrative data provide useful information for health planning and monitoring, identifying inter-hospital differences that could be targeted by policy interventions aimed at improving the efficiency of obstetric care. The important decreasing trend over time of LoS post CS, coupled with the impact of some socio-demographic and obstetric history factors on LoS, seemingly suggests a positive approach of health care providers of FVG in decision making on hospitalization length post CS. However, the significant role of several obstetric conditions did not influence hospital variation. Inter-hospital variations of LoS could depend on a number of factors, including the capacity to discharge patients into the surrounding non-acute facilities. Further studies are warranted to ascertain whether LoS can be attributed to hospital efficiency rather than the characteristics of the hospital catchment area.
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