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The impact of transition of Spina Bifida Care: a retrospective population-based cohort study comparing outcomes and healthcare costs longitudinally from adolescence into adulthood


Introduction — Transition from multidisciplinary paediatric to adult care results in a significant change in the intensity of care provided to patients with spina bifida (SB).

Objective — To compare planned and unplanned healthcare utilization and costs of care of transitioning SB patients.

Study Design — Through a retrospective population-based cohort study, patients with SB born in Ontario between 1988 and 1999 were studied using routinely collected data analysed at ICES. Patients were followed longitudinally from age 16 to 22 years with comparisons made between the paediatric baseline year (age 16) to the first 3 years of adulthood (ages 19 to 21). A composite primary outcome of unplanned emergency room (ER) visits, hospitalizations and emergency surgical procedures, was compared before and after transition. Secondary outcomes included these variables individually and estimated healthcare costs.

Results — In the 299 patients, no significant differences were identified in the composite primary outcome between periods (P = 0.09). Unplanned ER visits (P = 0.004) and emergency surgical procedures (P = 0.02) increased after transition. Despite this, the estimated individual total cost of care declined after transition (P = 0.03). Further, multivariable analysis identified rural residence (RR 1.78, confidence interval [CI] 1.30 to 2.44) and previous urologic surgery (RR 1.91, CI 1.41 to 2.57) as significant predictors of increased need for emergent care and healthcare costs, respectively.

Conclusion — Patients with SB in Ontario have higher rates of ER usage and unplanned surgery after the transition to adult care. While this does not drive an increase in healthcare costs, improvements in the care of transitioned SB patients, particularly rural patients and those with prior urologic surgery, may decrease the requirement for acute care.



Playfair M, McClure JA, Le B, Cassidy C, Wang P, Welk B, Dave S. Paediatr Child Health (Oxford). 2023; Jul 5 [Epub ahead of print].

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