Background: An understanding of the life expectancy of patients with heart failure (HF) may assist in difficult treatment decisions such as placement of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator or initiation of end-of-life care. However, previous studies have focused on predicting shorter-term mortality and limited data currently exist to predict expected survival among hospitalized patients with HF.
Methods: We studied 9943 patients who were newly hospitalized with HF between 1999 and 2001 in Ontario, Canada. Median survival was calculated using survival analysis and stratified by baseline characteristics and the EFFECT HF risk score. These analyses were repeated for the 1467 patients who had left ventricular ejection fraction of < or = 30%.
Results: The average age of our HF cohort was 75.8 years and 50.4% of the patients were female. After a median follow-up of 6 years, hospitalized patients with HF had a 5-year mortality rate of 68.7% and a median survival of 2.4 years. Mortality varied substantially across risk groups such that median survival was only 8 months for patients in the high-risk group and only 3 months in the very high risk group. Similarly, among patients with depressed left ventricular ejection fraction, median survival was only 6 and 3 months in the high- and very high risk groups, respectively.
Conclusions: Prognostic estimations using median survival may improve the ability of physicians to identify subgroups of patients with HF who have limited life expectancy. This information may assist in communicating prognostic information and guiding difficult treatment decisions among hospitalized patients with HF.