Aims: To describe the clinical course of heart failure in a population-based sample of incident cases, and to identify factors predicting hospitalization and mortality.
Methods and results: Three hundred and thirty-two incident cases were identified over 15 months; 208 inpatients and 124 outpatients. Thirty-eight inpatients died during the first hospital admission (case fatality 18%) leaving 294 at risk of subsequent hospitalization. Over an average follow-up of 19 months, 173 cases were hospitalized on 311 occasions. Two hundred and twenty-four (72%) of these admissions were unplanned, with 51% due to worsening heart failure. One hundred and ten cases died over the same period. Cases diagnosed as an inpatient had 26 more admissions for worsening heart failure per 100 cases during follow-up (95% CI 9 to 44) compared to cases diagnosed as an outpatient, and also a higher mortality (hazard ratio 3.1 (95% CI 1.9 to 5.1)). Age was the only factor associated with an increased risk of hospitalization for worsening heart failure, but age, functional class and serum creatinine were predictive of mortality.
Conclusions: New cases of heart failure are at high risk of subsequent hospitalization, especially during the first months after diagnosis. Whilst predicting which patients will be hospitalized is difficult, interventions designed to reduce hospitalizations for worsening heart failure should be targeted at elderly inpatients with a new diagnosis.
Copyright 2001 The European Society of Cardiology. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.