Introduction: Length of hospitalization varies widely in preterm infants and can be affected by multiple maternal and neonatal factors including respiratory instability. Therefore, we aimed to determine the association between postnatal intermittent hypoxemia (IH) and prolonged hospitalization. Methods: This prospective single-center cohort study followed infants born at <31 weeks of gestational age through 2 years corrected age with detailed oxygen saturation data captured from days 7 to 30 of age. Results: 51/164 (31%) of infants were discharged after 400/7 weeks of corrected gestational age (CGA). A greater average daily number of IH events (OR per 10 events/day 1.33 [95% CI 1.03–1.72]), duration of events (OR per minute 1.14 [1.07–1.21]), and percent time with oxygen saturation <80% (OR per percent 1.88 [1.25–2.85]) on days 7–30 of age were all significantly associated with prolonged hospitalization past 400/7 weeks CGA. In survival analyses, infants with a greater average daily number of IH events (HR per 10 events/day 0.89 [0.81–0.98]), percent time with oxygen saturation <80% (HR per percent 0.79 [0.67–0.94]), and duration of events (HR per minute 0.93 [0.91–0.95]) on days 7–30 of age all had significantly lower probability of earlier discharge. In addition, there was a significant interaction with gestational age; the association between IH and prolonged hospitalization was stronger in more mature infants (p = 0.024). Conclusions: Physiological instability on days 7–30 of age, as manifested by IH, is significantly associated with prolonged hospitalization. IH likely represents both a marker of initial severity of illness and the beginning of biological cascades, leading to prematurity-associated morbidities.

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