Important heart failure treatment underused

October 20, 2009 2:00:14 PM PDT
More than 5 million people in the U.S. are affected by heart failure, and that number is increasing.Although there are a variety of treatments, new research indicates one particular therapy is not used often enough among patients who could benefit the most.

Heart failure happens when the heart muscle can no longer contract or relax efficiently.

This can lead to slower blood flow, exhaustion and a backup of blood in tissue.

Guidelines for treating heart failure have been adopted by hospitals across the country and they include the recommendation of aldosterone antagonists, or blockers, as a therapy for eligible patients.

UCLA doctors led research into the number of patients discharged on this treatment.

They found less than one third of eligible patients were discharged on the medication.

"We have a very important therapy, aldosterone antagonists, that is widely available, is very inexpensive, but when we look at, in this study, in a contemporary time frame in hospitals across the United States, there are large numbers of eligible patients that are not being treated," said Gregg C. Fonarow, MD, UCLA School of Medicine.

The study appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers hope their findings lead to the implementation of programs to improve the treatment rate.


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