October 21, 2011
For immediate release
Contact: Gerry Ewing / 503-681-1654
A study of Medicare patients released this week that says hospital stays for heart failure fell a remarkable 30 percent in the last decade “validates the great strides in heart therapy made over the past 20 years,” said Dr. Daniel W. Isenbarger, a cardiovascular disease specialist with Hillsboro Cardiology.
“It’s very exciting data,” said Isenbarger of the study of 55 million Medicare patients, the largest ever to document heart failure trends. Heart failure in older patients is the most common cause of a hospital stay. Fewer hospital stays mean a large cost savings for Medicare and other programs.
In the decade of 1998 to 2008, the rate of hospitalizations fell from 2,845 per 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries to 2,007 per 100,000, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study did find the decline came at a lower rate for black men. Isenbarger cited advances in medication therapies and mechanical therapies as two of the reasons for the dramatic drop in heart failure hospital stays.
Use of anti-adrenergic medications, once considered forbidden, proved to be effective at low doses that are slowly increased over weeks. These medications block the signals that cause the heart to beat faster and raise blood pressure. The medications improved survival by protecting the heart from long-term toxic effects of adrenergic hormones, Isenbarger said. Mechanical therapies like the use of catheters and angioplasties and stents to restore the heart’s blood flow and advances in heart pacemaker techniques have also contributed significantly to improving symptoms and survival in many patients, he said.
The public shouldn’t underestimate the role of wellness and education in keeping patients from needing hospitalization, Isenbarger said. Education about factors such as too much salt intake, fluids and alcohol, daily body weight monitoring and close followup with medical providers all contributed to the decline in hospital stays, he said.
Isenbarger cautioned people not to read too much into the study results. “It is still sobering to note that mortality in heart failure patients is still very, very high, despite these advances, warranting continued research efforts for the foreseeable future,” he said.
For more information on the study, go to: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/236127.php