Health Team

Study: Heart failure patients not receiving medication

Posted October 20, 2009 5:40 p.m. EDT


Every year more than a million patients are hospitalized with heart failure, according the Journal of American Medical Association.

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle can no longer pump blood efficiently. It can lead to life threatening problems, like “fatigue, exercise intolerance or backup of blood in the various tissues leading to congestion,” said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, of the UCLA School of Medicine.

Hospitals across the country adopted quality improvement guidelines for heart failure, which include the use of aldosterone antagonists also known as blockers.

“These medications have been tested in clinical trials and are shown to offer broad protection to patients,” Fonarow said.

Researchers examined the number of patients appropriately discharged on aldosterone antagonists from hospitals registered in the guidelines program.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In 241 hospitals over a two year period, less than one-third of eligible patients left the hospital with the medication.

Hospitals varied widely in prescribing aldosterone antagonists, even though they're inexpensive.

“In a contemporary time frame in hospitals across the U.S., there are large numbers of eligible patients that are not being treated,” Fonarow said.

Doctors suggest heart failure patients ask if they're eligible for the therapy.

Researchers hope their findings will lead to programs that will further improve upon the treatment rate.