Background: Increasing prevalence, use of health services, and number of deaths have made congestive heart failure (CHF) a new epidemic in the United States. Yet there are no adequate data to guide treatment of the more typical and complex cases of patients who are very old and frail.
Methods: Using the SAGE database, we studied the cases of 86,094 patients with CHF admitted to any of the 1492 long-term care facilities of 5 states from 1992 through 1996. We described their clinical and functional characteristics and their pharmacologic treatment to verify agreement with widely approved guidelines. We evaluated age- and sex-related differences, and we determined predictors of receiving an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor by developing a multiple logistic regression model.
Results: The mean age of the population was 84.9 +/- 8 years. Eighty percent of the patients 85 years of age or older were women. More than two thirds of patients underwent frequent hospitalizations related to CHF in the year preceding admission to a long-term care facility. Coronary heart disease and hypertension were the most common causes. Half of the patients received digoxin and 45% a diuretic, regardless of background cardiovascular comorbidities. Only 25% of patients had a prescription for ACE inhibitors. The presence of cardiovascular comorbidity, already being a recipient of a large number of medications, a previous hospitalization for CHF, and admission to the facility in recent years were associated with an increased likelihood of receiving an ACE inhibitor. The presence of severe physical limitation was inversely related to use of ACE inhibitors, as were a series of organizational factors related to the facilities.
Conclusions: Patients in long-term care who have CHF little resemble to those enrolled in randomized trials. This circumstance may explain, at least in part, the divergence from pharmacologic management consensus guidelines. Yet the prescription of ACE inhibitors varies significantly across facilities and depends on organizational characteristics.