Background: Relatively limited epidemiological data are available regarding the prognosis of congestive heart failure (CHF) and temporal changes in survival after its onset in a population-based setting.
Methods and results: Proportional hazards models were used to evaluate the effects of selected clinical variables on survival after the onset of CHF among 652 members of the Framingham Heart Study (51% men; mean age, 70.0 +/- 10.8 years) who developed CHF between 1948 and 1988. Subjects were older at the diagnosis of heart failure in the later decades of this study (mean age at heart failure diagnosis, 57.3 +/- 7.6 years in the 1950s, 65.9 +/- 7.9 years in the 1960s, 71.6 +/- 9.4 years in the 1970s, and 76.4 +/- 10.0 years in the 1980s; p < 0.001). Median survival after the onset of heart failure was 1.7 years in men and 3.2 years in women. Overall, 1-year and 5-year survival rates were 57% and 25% in men and 64% and 38% in women, respectively. Survival was better in women than in men (age-adjusted hazards ratio for mortality, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.54-0.77). Mortality increased with advancing age in both sexes (hazards ratio for men, 1.27 per decade of age; 95% CI, 1.09-1.47; hazards ratio for women, 1.61 per decade of age; 95% CI, 1.37-1.90). Adjusting for age, there was no significant temporal change in the prognosis of CHF during the 40 years of observation (hazards ratio for men for mortality, 1.08 per calendar decade; 95% CI, 0.92-1.27; hazards ratio for women for mortality, 1.02 per calendar decade; 95% CI, 0.83-1.26).
Conclusions: CHF remains highly lethal, with better prognosis in women and in younger individuals. Advances in the treatment of hypertension, myocardial ischemia, and valvular heart disease during the four decades of observation did not translate into appreciable improvements in overall survival after the onset of CHF in this large, unselected population.