The purpose of this study was to determine the safety and cost savings of discharging low income patients at 72 hours following cesarean delivery. Predetermined criteria were used to allow discharge. Selection criteria were no medical problems, an afebrile postoperative course, documented bowel function, to have tolerated at least one regular meal, and to have reached 72 hours postdelivery by 6 o'clock PM at discharge. Each patient returned to clinic 2-3 days postdischarge for staple removal. Physicians also discharged some low income patients home at 72 hours even though strict eligibility criteria were not met. Maternal outcome and financial data were compared between patients discharged after meeting eligibility criteria versus those who did not. Of 1,299 cesareans performed from July 1, 1993-July 31, 1995, 906 (70%) were performed in low income patients and 399 (44%) of these women were discharged at 72 hours. Twenty-seven women were lost to follow-up and 286 (77%; Group A) met the eligibility criteria for 72-hour discharge. Eighty-six women (23%; Group B) who did not meet criteria were also discharged at 72 hours. When maternal outcome data from the two groups were compared, Group B patients (did not meet criteria) were more likely to have been readmitted at ≤ 30 days (7 of 86; 8% vs. 8 of 286; 3%; P = 0.05) and had longer hospital stays (27 days vs. 22 days) than Group A patients (met criteria). Net cost savings in 2 years was $448 per discharge for Group A, but only $333 per discharge for Group B. In our selective 72-hour discharge program, failure to abide by predetermined guidelines established to select only low risk, afebrile patients for 72-hour discharge resulted in more hospital readmissions, and longer stays and thus was not as cost effective. © 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.