We examined whether population-level hospitalization rates for heart failure (HF) and subsequent survival have continued to improve since the turn of the century. We also examined trends in the prescribing of evidence-based pharmacological treatment for HF.
All patients in Scotland hospitalized with a first episode of HF between 1986 and 2003 were followed up until death or the end of 2004. Prescriptions of evidence-based treatments issued from 1997 to 2003 by a sample of primary care practices were also examined. A total of 116 556 individuals (52.6% women) had a first hospital discharge for HF. Age-adjusted first hospitalization rates for HF (per 100 000; 95% CI in parentheses) rose from 124 (119 to 129) in 1986 to 162 (157 to 168) in 1994 and then fell to 105 (101 to 109) in 2003 in men; in women, they rose from 128 (123 to 132) in 1986 to 160 (155 to 165) in 1993, falling to 101 (97 to 105) in 2003. Case-fatality rates fell steadily over the period. Adjusted 30-day case-fatality rates fell after discharge (adjusted odds [2003 versus 1986] 0.59 [95% CI 0.45 to 0.63] in men and 0.77 [95% CI 0.67 to 0.88] in women). Adjusted 1- and 5-year survival improved similarly. Median survival increased from 1.33 to 2.34 years in men and from 1.32 to 1.79 years in women. Age-adjusted prescribing rates for angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, beta-blockers, and spironolactone increased from 1997 to 2003 (all P<0.0001 for trend).
After rising between 1986 and 1994, rates of first hospitalization for HF declined. Case-fatality rates also fell. Prescribing rates for HF therapies increased from 1997 to 2003. These findings suggest that improvements in the prevention and treatment of HF may have had progressive, sustained effects on outcomes at the population level; however, prognosis remains poor in HF.