Why are so many heart failure patients hospitalized?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Research has shown that one of the number one reasons heart failure patients are rehospitalized within the first 30-60 days after discharge is the lack of knowledge they have about taking care of themselves outside of the hospital to prevent another flare-up and admission. Patients are often discharged with a poor understanding of their daily responsibilities in their own self-care regimen. These include: Knowing the heart failure "zones" and when to get early intervention for a flare-up, recording daily weights, a daily blood pressure and heart rate, understanding and adhering to dietary restrictions, understanding their disease, and understanding what their medications are for.

Another reason people are readmitted is noncompliance with therapies to manage their heart failure. Lastly, the onset of depression in the mid to latter stages of heart failure can make it very difficult to focus on all the things necessary to care for oneself with the diagnosis of heart failure so they end up back in the hospital. The knowledge and support of caregivers and family is extremely important in the prevention of flare-ups. With each heart failure flare-up the heart function takes another hit, so it’s crucial for those who have a loved one with heart failure to learn as much as they can and help encourage the heart failure patient in any way they can--this includes monitoring for signs and symptoms of depression and ensuring their loved one gets the earliest access to treatment.   

Heart failure patients are typically admitted to the hospital for three main causes: fluid overload (55 percent), chest pain or heart attack (25 percent) and irregular heart rhythms (15 percent). Repeated hospitalizations do not bode well for a patient's prognosis or quality of life. Treatment is also financially costly.

Over 1 million hospital discharges occur every year.  This results in approximately 29.6 billion dollars in costs derived from heart failure admissions.  About 50% of these admissions occur due to salt and water excess intake, and/or medication noncompliance.  Adherence to a low sodium diet and fluid restriction, along with maintenance of a prescribed medical regimen may result in fewer people being admitted to the hospital with acute decompensated heart failure.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.