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U.S. Vets' Heart Failure Death Rates Seem to Be Improving

TUESDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly U.S. veterans are far less likely to die after hospitalization for heart failure than they were in the late 1990s, a new study indicates.

Researchers examined data on more than 21,000 veterans aged 80 and older who were hospitalized at least once for heart failure between 1999 and 2008.

They found that death rates within 30 days of initial hospitalization fell from 14 percent to 7 percent during that time, and death rates within a year of hospitalization decreased from 48.8 percent to 27.2 percent.

While patients aged 90 and older were most likely to die within a year of initial hospital admission, the 30-day and one-year death rates improved the most in this age group, 11 percent and 26 percent, respectively, according to the report.

The overall decline in death rates among patients 80 and older may be due to increasing emphasis on measures that promote evidence-based treatment of heart failure, said the researchers, from Stanford University School of Medicine.

But while death rates declined during the study period, readmission of patients for any reason within 30 days of initial heart failure hospitalization remained unchanged between 1999 and 2008 at about 17.3 percent, the study authors found.

Among the ways to reduce these patients' risk of 30-day hospital readmission, the researchers suggested improved patient education, blood testing or other physician follow-up shortly after hospital discharge.

The study is published in the April 5 online edition of the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

"There was a lot of room for improvement since so many patients in the oldest age groups were not getting evidence-based heart failure therapies, historically," study author Dr. Rashmee Shah, a postdoctoral fellow in the health research and policy department at Stanford, said in a journal news release.

More information

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

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Circulation: Heart Failure, news release, April 5, 2011

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