Aims: This study was designed to identify potential specialty-related differences in the epidemiology, clinical profile, management and outcome of patients hospitalized for congestive heart failure in departments of cardiology or internal medicine.
Methods and results: From 1 July to 31 December 1998, we prospectively recorded epidemiological and clinical data from patients with congestive heart failure consecutively admitted to 11 departments of cardiology and 12 departments of internal medicine in Liguria, a northern area of Italy. The overall study population included 749 patients; 22% were treated by cardiologists and 78% by internists (P<0.0001). Patients managed by cardiologists were more likely to undergo echocardiography (92% vs 37%), Holter monitoring (25% vs 3%) and exercise stress testing (20% vs 0.5%) than those managed by internists (P=0.001). At discharge, patients treated by cardiologists were more likely to be prescribed beta-blockers (41% to 4%) and ACE inhibitors (100% to 74%) than those treated by internists (P<0.0001), and the latter medication at higher dosages by cardiologists than internists. In addition, patients followed by cardiologists were younger (70+/-9 to 79+/-1 years;P<0.0001), more likely to be male (61% to 50%;P=0.011) and to have coronary artery disease (57% to 45%;P<0.006) than those followed by internists. Conversely, patients followed by internists were more likely to have diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, atrial fibrillation and renal failure (P<0.03). In the overall study population, 53 patients (7%) died during hospitalization. Patients treated by cardiologists had a mortality not significantly different from that of patients treated by internists (10% and 6%, respectively;P=0.067), although congestive heart failure was more severe on admission in patients treated by cardiologists.
Conclusion: Cardiologists follow published guidelines for congestive heart failure more strictly than internists, but treat a smaller number of patients who are younger, have more severe congestive heart failure and fewer co-morbidities than those managed by internists.
Copyright 2001 The European Society of Cardiology.