Characterization of the precipitants of hospitalization for heart failure decompensation

Susan J. Bennett, Gertrude A. Huster, Susan L. Baker, Lesley Braun Milgrom, Anne Kirchgassner, Judy Birt, Milton L. Pressler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The model for management of patients with heart failure may be a key determinant of morbidity and quality of life. Development of a better management strategy for these patients requires determination of the reasons for decompensation that leads to hospitalization. OBJECTIVES: To ascertain and rank the principal reasons for hospitalization of patients who have heart failure. METHODS: Retrospective audit of all 1992 admissions (N=1031; 691 patients) coded for heart failure at a Veterans Affairs medical center and a tertiary care university medical center. RESULTS: The diagnosis of heart failure was verified by preset criteria in 72% of the patients. Of the 496 patients with documented heart failure, worsening heart failure was a main reason for admission in 390 (79%). Despite different socioeconomic backgrounds, excessive sodium retention was the leading factor (55%) associated with decompensation in patients at both institutions. Other factors precipitated admission much less often. CONCLUSIONS: Many hospitalizations for heart failure might be avoided by case management directed at lessening sodium overload. Increased use of medications known to be effective in persons with heart failure (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, digoxin, and adequate diuretic therapy) might reduce the likelihood of decompensation. Implementation of behavioral interventions to assist patients with self-monitoring signs of sodium retention and to improve compliance with medications and dietary sodium restrictions are strategies for further reducing the risk of decompensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-174
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Critical Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care

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