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Heart Disease is no Longer Leading Reason for Patient Admission

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, September 24, 2009

Coronary heart disease patients requiring hospital care have declined so much that they are no longer the leading reason for a diseased patient's admission. Now it's ranked number three.

That's according to a sample of discharge records collected from 1,000 hospitals in 40 states in 2007 by the federal Agency for Health Research and Quality. The agency found that compared with a decade earlier, the number of patients with coronary heart disease who need hospital admission has declined 31%.

"A lot of people think it's because we have better control of risk factors," says AHRQ analyst Anne Elixhauser. "We've decreased smoking, we have better control of cholesterol, and blood pressure," which is credited to better lifestyle awareness and the use of drugs like statins, she says.

In fact, several other types of vascular disease are also on the decline. Hospitalizations for acute cerebrovascular disease, including stroke, are down 15% from 10 years ago and heart attacks are down 15%.

That's the good news. There's also some very bad news. Septicemia, or serious bacterial infections in blood (such as MRSA), are up a worrisome 63%. Elixhauser says the reason for the increase in blood infections has stumped health officials.

"MRSA is part of it, but we really don't know what's going on. What we do see is that cases of septicemia increased between 1993 and 1996, and then stabilized. They declined in 2000 and 2001, but since then it has been on a 45-degree angle going up from 2002 onward. It's been a constant increase over the last seven years."

Osteoarthritis hospitalizations, for degenerative joint disease—many involving joint replacement—are up 95%.

Non-specific chest pain is up 47% and mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder hospitalizations, are up 21%.

The data is drawn from H-CUP Facts and Figures, and compared hospital based care between 1997 and 2007. It is available at www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov.

Ranked by order of number of hospitalizations from 1 to 10, the diseases:

  1. Pneumonia
  2. Congestive heart failure
  3. Coronary atherosclerosis
  4. Osteoarthritis
  5. Non-specific chest pain
  6. Mood disorders
  7. Cardiac dysrhythmias
  8. Septicemia
  9. Disorders of vertebral discs and bones in the spinal column
  10. Heart attack

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