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Hospital Readmission Rates High Among Heart Attack Patients

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Heart Attack patients in the United States are more likely to return to the hospital within 30 days of discharge than in other countries.

The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 60 percent of patients with serious heart attacks in the United States were released from the hospital in three days or less and 14.5 percent of those patients had come back for more treatment within a months time.

In other countries, 54 percent of heart attack patients spent a minimum of six days in the hospital, which provided only 9.9 percent of people returning within 30 days of their heart attack.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center conducted the study.

With health professionals still trying to determine the proper length of stay for extreme heart attack patients, these new results will likely help shape future protocols to decrease the amount of returned visits, and provide better care.

Dr. Manesh R. Patel, who is the assistant professor of cardiology at Duke and the chief author of the study said, “Readmission should be avoided if at all possible, everyone agrees on that. It may be that the total number of days a patient spends in the hospital in the first 30 days may reflect the amount of care required. In places other than the United States, you may initially stay longer and get much of that care coordinated at the beginning.

Heart attacks are caused when the blood flow is blocked to a part of the heart, which can happen once the arteries that supply the heart with blood, become coagulated from fat buildup or cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association there are 452,000 heart attacks each year, and say one happens every 36 seconds in the United States, making this study by Duke University so pertinent.

Researchers gathered 5,745 heart attack patients from 17 countries and each participant had a severe heart attack in their lifetime. The patients who had numerous blockages had nearly twice the risk of being readmitted to the hospital, versus those without numerous blockages. In the United States 68 percent of heart attack victims had an increased risk of being readmitted, which is noticeably higher than other countries.

“This speaks to how health care is provided in the United States,” said Patel. “In the United States, care is episodic, not always coordinated, and it’s not clear in many cases whether the patient is seen again by the same doctor or care team within the first seven days after discharge. When they are discharged quickly, they are at risk for being readmitted because the system may not be in place to effectively manage them when issues arise.”

Since 2009, the 30-day hospital stay has been a medical norm in the United States, and increasing health care cost has motivated hospitals to keep the patient overnight no longer than necessary.

“We don’t know if simply making the stay longer would help. We don’t know that at all. We just know that when the stay is shorter, the correlation is associated with more readmissions,” said Dr. Patel.

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