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Aug 16, 2016

Women and Minorities Less Likely to Receive Counseling on ICDs for Heart Failure

Counseling on potentially life-saving heart failure treatment is lacking.

Proper counseling on heart failure treatment is painfully lacking, based on a recent study in Circulation that found four out of five patients hospitalized for heart failure were not counseled on life-saving implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), particularly women and minorities.

ICDs are electronic devices that monitor and correct abnormal heart rhythms, helping prevent sudden cardiac death.

Certain patients with heart failure are at significantly increased risk for sudden cardiac death, making ICDs a potentially life-saving treatment option. However, research shows that women and minorities with heart failure are less likely to receive ICDs than men or white patients. Experts wonder if a lack of counseling is to blame for this disparity.

To learn more, researchers analyzed data from the Get With The Guidelines – Heart Failure Program, which uses hospital data to improve patient care and outcomes. From 2011 and 2014, the database included more than 146,000 patients hospitalized for heart failure across 236 sites. Among these, approximately 21,000 met criteria to receive an ICD.

Overall, researchers found that only 23% of eligible patients received counseling on ICDs before discharge from the hospital. However, women were 16% less likely to receive such counseling than men and minorities were 30–47% less likely to receive counseling compared to whites.

Among the 4,755 patients counseled on ICDs, nearly two-thirds received an ICD or planned to after their hospital stay. While women were just likely as men to receive an ICD after counseling, black and Hispanic patients were still 28–30% less likely to receive an ICD after counseling compared to whites.

Based on findings, it’s clear that proper counseling is lacking among heart failure patients eligible for ICDs, particularly among women and minorities. This suggests a need for more culturally competent counseling. Experts hope that with future efforts, we can ensure that all patients receive proper counseling on heart failure treatment to improve outcomes for heart failure patients

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is sudden cardiac death?

  • Sudden cardiac death can result from sudden cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. Sudden cardiac arrest must be immediately addressed with CPR and medical attention to improve chances of survival.
  • What is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)?
  • An ICD is a device that uses electrical pulses or shocks to help patients with an irregular heartbeat maintain normal heart rhythm. Upon detecting an abnormal heart rhythm, ICDs send shocks to the heart to help restore normal rhythm and prevent sudden cardiac death.

Infographic: Heart Failure

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