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Flu Vaccine Helps Keep Heart Failure Patients Out of the Hospital

CardioSmart News

Annual flu vaccinations are vital for heart failure patients, based on a recent study that found flu vaccines significantly reduce risk of hospitalization in adults with heart failure.

Published in the European Heart Journal, this study analyzed electronic health records of heart failure patients in England vaccinated for the flu at any point between 1990 and 2013. The goal was to assess the effects of the flu vaccine on hospitalizations in heart failure patients, since findings have been mixed.

In general, people with heart conditions are at high risk of developing serious complications from the flu, which is why the flu vaccine is strongly recommended for heart patients. Not only does the vaccine help prevent the flu altogether, it can help reduce risk of complications if patients do get sick.

However, some findings suggest that vaccinations may be less effective in heart failure patients or worse, may actually trigger dangerous infections. While some organizations like the American Heart Association call for annual flu vaccinations among heart failure patients, not all guidelines specifically recommend the flu shot in heart failure patients due to a lack of evidence.

To help settle the debate, researchers analyzed hospitalizations among 59,202 English heart failure patients in the year following their flu shot. Researchers then looked at hospitalizations in the same patient during a different year when they didn’t receive the flu vaccine. After analysis, researchers found that the flu vaccine was associated with 27% lower risk of hospitalization due to heart disease. The flu vaccine was also associated with 17% lower risk for hospitalization due to respiratory infections and 4% lower risk of hospitalization from all causes.

Authors believe findings offer strong support for annual flu vaccinations for patients with heart failure, as the flu vaccine helps significantly reduce risk of hospitalization, especially for heart disease. However, they also note that uptake of the flu vaccine among heart failure patients in England was generally low, ranging from 8% in 1990 to 49% in 2013, with a peak of 63% in 2006. With updated guidelines and public health strategies, experts hope to increase the uptake of the flu vaccine and help prevent complications in heart failure patients.

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