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Hospitalization for acute cerebellitis in children affected by varicella: how much does it cost?

BACKGROUND: Chickenpox is a highly contagious airborne disease caused by the varicella zoster virus. It is generally benign and self-limiting, but it may be responsible of life-threatening complications. Acute cerebellitis (AC) is the most common neurological complication and is associated with prolonged hospitalization in the acute phase (HAP).

AIM OF THE STUDY: To estimate the costs of AC HAP in children affected by varicella.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of a pediatric cohort hospitalized for chickenpox AC over a period of 15 years (from October 2003 to October 2018) and we analyzed acute care costs. For any patient the HAP has been calculated. The final value includes cost of hospital accommodation and management at the Pediatric and Infectious Diseases Unit. To this cost, the price of procedures (imaging, laboratory exams, medical and paramedical evaluations) and medical treatments was added.

RESULTS: In the study period, 856 children had been hospitalized for varicella. Out of them, 65 met a diagnosis of AC and were included in the study. The hospitalization length was of 10 days (range 3-20 days). The median cost of HAP for each patient was of 5366 euro, with an average annual cost of 23,252 €. The most significant part of HAP is due to the cost of hospital accommodation and management at the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Unit, which was about € 537.78 for a single day.

DISCUSSION: Although AC post-varicella is rare, its HAP cost is not negligible resulting in substantial economic burden. Vaccination would have probably prevented varicella and AC complication, avoiding hospitalization.

CONCLUSIONS: Financial studies are important for evaluate the cost saving in order to influence public funding decisions. Further studies are necessary to investigate the economic burden of the disease.

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