Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Hospitalization for Heart Failure in Pennsylvania

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020 Dec 15;76(24):2862-2874. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2020.10.023.


Background: Growing literature linking unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) to adverse health has implicated air pollution and stress pathways. Persons with heart failure (HF) are susceptible to these stressors.

Objectives: This study sought to evaluate associations between UNGD activity and hospitalization among HF patients, stratified by both ejection fraction (EF) status (reduced [HFrEF], preserved [HFpEF], not classifiable) and HF severity.

Methods: We evaluated the odds of hospitalization among patients with HF seen at Geisinger from 2008 to 2015 using electronic health records. We assigned metrics of UNGD activity by phase (pad preparation, drilling, stimulation, and production) 30 days before hospitalization or a frequency-matched control selection date. We assigned phenotype status using a validated algorithm.

Results: We identified 9,054 patients with HF with 5,839 hospitalizations (mean age 71.1 ± 12.7 years; 47.7% female). Comparing 4th to 1st quartiles, adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence interval) for hospitalization were 1.70 (1.35 to 2.13), 0.97 (0.75 to 1.27), 1.80 (1.35 to 2.40), and 1.62 (1.07 to 2.45) for pad preparation, drilling, stimulation, and production metrics, respectively. We did not find effect modification by HFrEF or HFpEF status. Associations of most UNGD metrics with hospitalization were stronger among those with more severe HF at baseline.

Conclusions: Three of 4 phases of UNGD activity were associated with hospitalization for HF in a large sample of patients with HF in an area of active UNGD, with similar findings by HFrEF versus HFpEF status. Older patients with HF seem particularly vulnerable to adverse health impacts from UNGD activity.

Keywords: environment; heart failure; hospitalization; unconventional natural gas development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / epidemiology
  • Heart Failure / etiology*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Hydraulic Fracking*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Petroleum Pollution / adverse effects*