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Heart Failure Raises Risks After Non-Cardiac Surgeries
Date:3/25/2008

Post-op odds of dying increased for patients with the common condition, study found

TUESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Older people with heart failure face heightened odds of complications and death after non-cardiac surgeries, according to the largest study ever conducted on the issue.

"We're trying to draw attention to this major problem," said lead researcher Dr. Adrian F. Hernandez, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Heart failure, the progressive loss of the heart's ability to pump blood, is widespread among older Americans, but it sometimes is overlooked as a risk factor when surgery is needed, he said.

"Most physicians focus on whether [older patients] have coronary artery disease or have a risk of heart attack," Hernandez said. "Heart failure is by far a more important risk factor, but it doesn't usually have greater weight when they want to identify patients at risk of complications or consider how they want to treat them after surgery."

Symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling of the legs.

Hernandez' group published the study in the April issue of Anesthesiology. They used Medicare data on more than 159,000 people undergoing major surgery not involving the heart, such as hip replacement operations. Past estimates have put the incidence of heart failure in the older population between 5 percent and 12 percent, but the new study found the condition in almost 20 percent of those having surgery.

The study divided the participants into three groups: those with heart failure, with or without coronary artery disease; those with only coronary artery disease; and those with neither condition.

Nearly 98 percent of all those who had surgery were discharged soon afterward from the hospital. But 17.1 percent of those with heart failure had to be re-hospitalized within 30 days, compared to 10.8 perc
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