New way to tally death risk for heart patients could ease worry

A calculated risk: Researchers develop way for doctors to tell which heart attack patients to reassure, and which to warn

Simple pocket card calculates risk of dying within six months of hospitalization

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When patients go home from the hospital after a heart attack or sudden chest pain episode, they often face an uncertain future and a lot of worry. Even though they've survived one heart-related crisis, another potentially fatal one could be just around the corner. Or they could be fortunate and live for many years.

Now, new research may give these heart patients, and their doctors, a better sense of who's really at risk -- and who can be reassured that they'll probably be fine.

In the June 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, an international group of researchers provides a simple way for doctors to calculate the chances that a particular patient will die within six months of going home from the hospital after a heart attack or unstable angina episode.

The calculating tool, which can fit on a pocket card or be programmed into an ordinary handheld data device, is based on data from 22,645 patients treated at 94 hospitals in 14 countries. Its developers hope that doctors everywhere will adopt it as a way of guiding treatment decisions and counseling recommendations for patients.

The paper's first author, University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center Clinical Director Kim A. Eagle, M.D., explains that the risk-predicting tool could help doctors decide early on how aggressively to treat a particular patient, to reduce his or her risk of dying soon after being discharged from the hospital. And, he says, it could ease the minds of many patients, while helping others face the reality of their situation.

The tool creates a score for each patient based on nine variables. The higher their score, the higher their chance of dying within six months of

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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