Aims: Congestive heart failure is believed to be a major public health problem in most Western countries; however, little is known about the extent of morbidity and mortality from congestive heart failure in New Zealand. This paper reports data on hospital admissions and mortality due to congestive heart failure in New Zealand during the years 1988-91.
Methods: All data were obtained from the New Zealand Health Information Service. Deaths from congestive heart failure were identified from ICD-9 codes indicating a primary diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Hospitalisations for congestive heart failure were identified both from ICD-9 codes indicating a primary diagnosis of congestive heart failure and from codes indicating a diagnosis of congestive heart failure secondary to chronic rheumatic heart disease, ischaemic heart disease or valvular heart disease (nonrheumatic).
Results: Each year there was an average of about 850 deaths ascribed to heart failure; two-thirds of these occurred in patients over the age of 75 years. Each year there was also an average of about 8000 hospital admissions of about 5000 patients for congestive heart failure; 75% of these admissions involved patients over 65 years old. The mean duration of hospital stay for congestive heart failure was 16 days. On this basis, it is estimated that hospital admissions for congestive heart failure are likely to cost about NZ$50 million each year, or about 1% of the total health budget.
Conclusions: Congestive heart failure is clearly a major public health problem in New Zealand with high hospitalisation and mortality rates. Several strategies have been proven to reduce mortality and hospital admissions for congestive heart failure and these should be utilised widely in patients at risk.