Harvard Heart Letter

Avoid another hospital stay

Two simple steps will improve your odds.

If you have a heart attack and are treated with emergency angioplasty and stent placement, you may be discharged from the hospital in three days ... and there's a one in 10 chance you will be readmitted within the month. The risk is even higher for those with multiple clogged arteries. These individuals also tend to have additional medical conditions and take more medications, all of which increase the risk of post–heart attack complications.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the outcomes of 5,571 heart-attack survivors who were treated with angioplasty and discharged home in a few days. Those who were readmitted within 30 days tended to have coexisting medical problems, such as hypertension, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, chronic inflammation, pulmonary disease, diabetes, or atherosclerosis in more than one coronary artery.

Going back into the hospital is frustrating for people who have to do it, since most would rather go home and stay home. High rates of hospital readmission are also a red flag for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which considers them a sign of poor or inconsistent quality of care.

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