Only about a third of ideal candidates with heart failure are currently treated with [aldosterone antagonists], even though it markedly improves outcome and is Class I-recommended in the guidelines.
—Gregg Fonarow, MD, co-chief, University of California at Los Angeles division of cardiology, chair, American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines program steering committee
You might not have done a fellowship in cardiology, but quite often you probably feel like a cardiologist. Hospitalists frequently attend to patients on observation for heart problems and help manage even the most complex patients.
Often, you are working alongside the cardiologist. But other times, you’re on your own. Hospitalists are expected to carry an increasingly heavy load when it comes to heart-failure patients and many other kinds of patients with specialized disorders. It can be hard to keep up with what you need to know.
- Recognize the new importance of beta-blockers for heart failure, and go with the best of them.
- It’s not readmissions that are the problem—it’s avoidable readmissions.
- New interventional technologies will mean more complex patients, so be ready.
- Aldosterone antagonists, though probably underutilized, can be very effective but require caution.
- Switching from IV diuretics to an oral regimen calls for careful monitoring.
- Patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction have outcomes over the longer haul similar to those with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. And in preserved ejection fraction cases, the contributing illnesses must be addressed.
- Inotropic agents can do more harm than good.
- Pay attention to the ins and outs of new antiplatelet therapies.
- Bridging anticoagulant therapy in patients going for electrophysiology procedures should be done only some, not most, of the time.
- Some non-STEMI patients might benefit from getting to the catheterization lab quickly.
- Beware the idiosyncrasies of new anticoagulants.
- Be cognizant of stent thrombosis and how to manage it.
The Hospitalist spoke to several cardiologists about the latest in treatments, technologies, and HM’s role in the system of care. The following are their suggestions for what you really need to know about treating patients with heart conditions.
1) Recognize the new importance of beta-blockers for heart failure, and go with the best of them.
Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensive receptor blockers have been part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) core measures for heart failure for a long time, but beta-blockers at hospital discharge only recently have been added as American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association/American Medical Association–Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement measures for heart failure.1
“For those with heart failure and reduced left ventricular ejection fraction, very old and outdated concepts would have talked about potentially holding the beta-blocker during hospitalization for heart failure—or not initiating until the patient was an outpatient,” says Gregg Fonarow, MD, co-chief of the University of California at Los Angeles’ division of cardiology and chair of the steering committee for the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines program. “[But] the guidelines and evidence, and often performance measures, linked to them are now explicit about initiating or maintaining beta-blockers during the heart-failure hospitalization.”
Beta-blockers should be initiated as patients are stabilized before discharge. Dr. Fonarow suggests hospitalists use only one of the three evidence-based therapies: carvedilol, metoprolol succinate, or bisoprolol.
“Many physicians have been using metoprolol tartrate or atenolol in heart-failure patients,” Dr. Fonarow says. “These are not known to improve clinical outcomes. So here’s an example where the specific medication is absolutely, critically important.”