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Open Access Research article

Use of hospitalisation history (lookback) to determine prevalence of chronic diseases: impact on modelling of risk factors for haemorrhage in pregnancy

Jian Sheng Chen12*, Christine L Roberts1, Judy M Simpson2 and Jane B Ford1

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical and Population Perinatal Health Research, Kolling Institute of Medical Research, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

2 Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2011, 11:68  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-68

Published: 17 May 2011



Concern about the completeness of comorbidity information in hospital records has been raised as a limitation of using hospital discharge data for research. The aim of this study is to assess the impact of additional comorbidity information from prior hospital admissions on estimation of prevalence and modelling of risk factors for obstetric haemorrhage.


A range of chronic disease prevalence for 53,438 women who had their first birth in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, 2005-2006, were ascertained for up to five years prior to the birth admission (for pregnancy, 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-year periods) and obstetric haemorrhage was identified from maternal hospital records for 2005 and 2006.


The ascertainment of chronic disease prevalence increased with increasing length of lookback. However, the rate of the increase was slower after 2 to 3 years than for the more recent periods. The effect size of chronic diseases on obstetric haemorrhage risk decreased with the increased case ascertainment associated with longer lookback. Furthermore, longer lookback did not improve the predictive capacity (C-statistic: 0.624) of a model that was based only on the birth admission records.


Longer ascertainment periods resulted in improved identification of chronic disease history among pregnant women, but the additional information from prior admissions did little to improve the modelling of risk factors for obstetric haemorrhage.