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Hospital Readmission Rate Among Heart Attack Patients Higher in US

Pixland/Thinkstock(DURHAM, N.C.) -- Heart attack patients in the U.S. are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of surgery than patients in Canada, Australia and several other European countries, a new study revealed.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed data from more than 5,700 patients in more than 15 countries.  Duke researchers found that 14 percent of American patients who experienced a ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (a severe type of heart attack that occurs when a coronary artery becomes at least partially blocked by a blood clot) were readmitted to the hospital, as opposed to an average of 9 percent in other countries.

There were two strong predictors of these results, said Dr. Manesh Patel, senior author of the study at Duke University Medical Center. Patients with multi-vessel disease were more likely to be readmitted because they were higher risk patients. The second strong predictor for any reason was if the patient was being treated in the United States.

“This isn’t telling us to stay in the hospital longer, but it does open up a conversation about how other countries perform differently,” said Patel.  “This will be important as we move forward with health care reform and figure out ways to provide sufficient care.”

“We do a great job of opening up a patient’s artery, but we need a more coordinated system in place that helps patients follow lifestyle changes, instead of the episodic nature of U.S. health care,” continued Patel.

American doctors are more aggressive in treating patients, said Dr. Christopher Cannon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.  If patients experience any ischemia (reduced blood supply to the heart) post-surgery, doctors tend to want to readmit the patient to the hospital.

“I think also that U.S. patients demand top level care, so if there is a question of chest pain following a [heart attack], they get readmitted for evaluation just to be safe,” said Cannon.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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