Fewer Patients Hospitalized for Heart Failure, U.S. Study
TUESDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- In the past decade, the
number of Medicare patients hospitalized for heart failure has
dropped significantly, researchers report.
"In the past 10 years, there has been a 30 percent drop in the heart failure hospitalization rate across the whole United States," said lead researcher Dr. Jersey Chen, an assistant professor of cardiology at Yale University School of Medicine. "That's a large decrease."
The lower rate of hospitalization is most likely due to several
factors, Chen said. Fewer people are developing heart failure
because there are fewer cases of cardiovascular disease, fewer
heart attacks and better control of risk factors such as high blood
pressure. Also, people who suffer from heart failure are getting
better outpatient care, which prevents the condition from becoming
so serious the patient needs to be hospitalized, Chen
"Regardless of the cause, a 30 percent drop is surprising," Chen said. "It has saved the health system quite a bit of money."
In 2008, the decline in hospitalization for heart failure meant
that 229,000 fewer people were hospitalized. Since each
hospitalization costs about $18,000 per patient, Medicare saved
$4.1 billion in 2008 alone, the researchers found.
The report was published in the Oct. 19 issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
For the study, Chen's team collected data on over 55 million
Medicare patients hospitalized between 1998 and 2008 for heart
failure. Over the 10-year period, the average age of hospitalized
heart patients rose from 79 to 79.9.
In addition, the percentage of women hospitalized dropped from
58.9 percent to 55.7 percent. However, the proportion of black
patients hospitalized for heart failure increased from 11.3 percent
in 1998 to 11.7 percent in 2008, the researchers found.
Overall, hospitalization for heart failure dropped 29.5 percent
during the period. The drop in hospitalization was seen in all
groups, but the decline was lowest among black men, the study
The rate of decline in heart failure hospitalizations varied by
state, Chen's group found. In 16 states, the drop was higher than
the national average. The greatest drop was seen in Vermont, but in
Wyoming, Rhode Island and Connecticut the decline was significantly
lower than the national average, the researchers reported.
In addition, deaths at one year from heart failure also
decreased from 31.7 percent in 1999 to 29.6 percent in 2008.
The drop in deaths also varied by state, with four states having
a statistically significant decline and five states where deaths
increased significantly. Deaths ranged from a low of 29.1 percent
in Maine to a high of 35.2 percent in Arizona, the investigators
Dr. Mihai Gheorghiade, associate director of the Center for
Cardiovascular Innovation at Northwestern University Feinberg
School of Medicine and co-author of an accompanying editorial, said
that "the study is encouraging, but we still have a big problem
with mortality and morbidity."
"The good news is that we have most of the ingredients to improve outcomes," Gheorghiade said.
Heart failure, he noted, is not one disease, but is a catch-all
for different disorders. These can include a problem with a heart
valve, heart muscle or coronary arteries, Gheorghiade
"There is specific therapy for different types of heart failure," he said.
Although there are fewer people being hospitalized for heart
failure, there are still too many people suffering from the
condition and being hospitalized, Gheorghiade said. "The rate is
still very high," he noted.
Gheorghiade thinks these numbers can be reduced further with
better adherence to the treatment guidelines and improved care. "If
you apply the guidelines, if you give the available therapy, there
is huge hope for a patient with heart failure," he said.
As the population ages, there will be more people living with
heart failure, increasing the burden on the Medicare system,
Gheorghiade added. "Stay tuned, because this condition is going to
increase, increase, increase, because it's age-related," he
For more information on heart failure, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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