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Risks May Rise With Need for Nursing Care After Heart Failure

TUESDAY, March 29 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors with heart failure who require skilled nursing care after discharge from the hospital face an increased risk for poor outcomes, including death, a new study has found.

People hospitalized with heart failure "are at high risk to start with," the study's lead author, Dr. Larry A. Allen, an assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Colorado-Denver School of Medicine, said in an American Heart Association news release.

"Patients, families and providers shouldn't be under the impression that life will, necessarily, go back to normal," he said. "We should help patients and their families recognize this high risk and adjust their medical decision making appropriately."

Allen and his fellow researchers analyzed data on 15,459 Medicare patients, who averaged 80 years old and were discharged from the hospital after three or more days of treatment for heart failure.

About a fourth of them were sent to a skilled nursing facility after discharge. These patients tended to be older, female, hospitalized longer and have other health problems as well as heart failure.

The researchers found that people who required skilled nursing care tended to be sicker and more likely to be re-hospitalized or die within one year than were those who did not require skilled nursing care.

About 14 percent of those discharged to a skilled nursing facility died within 30 days of leaving the hospital, compared with 4 percent of those who went home from the hospital. After a year, the death rates were 54 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Within 30 days after hospital discharge, 27 percent of those sent to a skilled nursing facility had been readmitted to a hospital, compared with 24 percent of the people who had gone home after their initial hospitalization. One year after discharge, rates of re-hospitalization were 76 percent and 72 percent, respectively.

The findings are in the March 29 issue of Circulation.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart failure.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, March 29, 2011

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