Heart failure patients admitted to general wards fare poorly: Study

The latest research shows that patients with heart failure are twice as likely to die if they are admitted to a general hospital ward rather than one specializing in cardiology. Heart failure kills nearly a quarter of a million people in England and Wales every year and about 900,000 people in the UK have the condition that means the heart is weakened and cannot pump blood efficiently. Symptoms include fatigue, breathlessness and swollen ankles, and it can lead to premature death.

Earlier research has shown that death rates from heart failure in British hospitals are twice the European average, partly because of late diagnosis and treatment that fails to control symptoms. The latest study appears in the journal Heart and it shows that patients admitted to general NHS wards are 2.5 times more likely to die than those admitted to cardiology wards. The authors of the study surveyed treatment for the first 10 patients admitted every month with a major diagnosis of heart failure over the course of a year. They checked on investigations people received, any specialist management, how long patients stayed in hospital and death rates.

A total of more than 6,000 patients at 86 hospitals were studied, with an average age of 78. Half of patients were admitted to cardiology wards – mostly younger men. Results showed that most patients (75%) on cardiology wards were given a heart trace monitor test (echocardiogram) but only 65% of those admitted to general medical wards were given this test. Women are less likely to get proper treatment than men, although death rates are similar

They write, “The prognosis of patients hospitalized with heart failure remains poor and investigation and treatment suboptimal. Specialist services are associated with higher rates of investigation and treatment and improved outcome.”

Research leader Professor John Cleland, of Hull University’s department of cardiology, said, “Currently, hospital provision of care is suboptimal and the outcome of patients poor.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

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Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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