Nov 5 2008
According to researchers in the U.S. survivors of heart attacks face the greatest risk of dying from sudden cardiac death during the first month after leaving the hospital.
The researchers from the Mayo Clinic conducted a long-term community study of nearly 3,000 heart attack survivors and found the risk of sudden cardiac death was highest soon after an attack, but after that first month, the risk drops significantly - but it rises again if a person experiences signs of heart failure.
Sudden cardiac death can occur when the heart's electrical system malfunctions and if cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation treatment is not delivered quickly.
The researchers say the study emphasises the need for doctors to stay in close contact with their heart attack patients, forming a partnership to recognize symptoms.
Dr. Veronique Roger, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist and lead author of the study says doctors, patients and family members need to be keenly alert for the symptoms of heart failure.
Dr. Roger says heart failure symptoms that require immediate attention include: shortness of breath, persistent cough or wheezing, bloating and swelling, fatigue and confusion.
Dr. Roger says there are three key findings that can be immediately applied to heart attack patients today - one is that the first month post-heart attack is the highest risk period for patients - and acute surveillance is warranted - two is that the risk drops rapidly after the first month, but the danger persists and surveillance is still required after the first month because - three, even though the risk drops after the first month, the onset of symptoms of heart failure at any time after the heart attack markedly increases the risk of death.
The research is published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).