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The characteristics of children requiring admission to neonatal care and paediatric intensive care before the age of two years in England and Wales: a data linkage study

Version 2 2024-02-16, 17:34
Version 1 2024-01-30, 15:35
journal contribution
posted on 2024-02-16, 17:34 authored by Sarah Seaton, Cheryl Battersby, Peter Davis, Alan Fenton, Josie Anderson, Tim Van Hasselt, Elizabeth Draper

Objective To quantify the characteristics of children admitted to neonatal units (NNUs) and paediatric intensive care units (PICUs) before the age of 2 years.

Design A data linkage study of routinely collected data.

Setting National Health Service NNUs and PICUs in England and Wales

Patients Children born from 2013 to 2018.

Interventions None.

Main outcome measure Admission to PICU before the age of 2 years.

Results A total of 384 747 babies were admitted to an NNU and 4.8% (n=18 343) were also admitted to PICU before the age of 2 years. Approximately half of all children admitted to PICU under the age of 2 years born in the same time window (n=18 343/37 549) had previously been cared for in an NNU.

The main reasons for first admission to PICU were cardiac (n=7138) and respiratory conditions (n=5386). Cardiac admissions were primarily from children born at term (n=5146), while respiratory admissions were primarily from children born preterm (<37 weeks’ gestational age, n=3550). A third of children admitted to PICU had more than one admission.

Conclusions Healthcare professionals caring for babies and children in NNU and PICU see some of the same children in the first 2 years of life. While some children are following established care pathways (eg, staged cardiac surgery), the small proportion of children needing NNU care subsequently requiring PICU care account for a large proportion of the total PICU population. These differences may affect perceptions of risk for this group of children between NNU and PICU teams.


Author affiliation

Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Leicester


  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Archives of Disease in Childhood


BMJ Publishing Group



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Available date




Data Access Statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. PICANet data may be requested from the data controller, the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP). A Data Access Request Form can be obtained from

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