No increase in deaths for heart failure patients with pulmonary artery catheter

New Orleans, LA, Nov. 9, 2004 The pulmonary artery catheter (PAC), a device that measures pressures and flows in the heart, is frequently used to diagnose, monitor, and guide treatment of congestive heart failure and other conditions. However, use of the PAC has been controversial with varying opinions as to its risk and benefits. New findings from a multi-center study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health show that the PAC did not significantly increase or decrease deaths or the number of days hospitalized in patients with severe heart failure.

The results of the Evaluation Study of Congestive Heart Failure and Pulmonary Artery Catheterization Effectiveness (ESCAPE) Trial are being presented today in the late-breaking clinical trials section of the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2004.

"Heart failure affects about 5 million Americans and the numbers are growing. So it is important to find out the best way to diagnose and treat this serious condition. The ESCAPE study lays to rest concerns that use of a pulmonary artery catheter in patients with advanced heart failure is associated with increased death and hospitalization. At the same time, the study suggests that PAC should not be used routinely to guide therapy. This is an invasive procedure with potentially serious complications and, without a definite survival benefit, its use should be carefully evaluated," said NHLBI Acting Director Barbara Alving, M.D.

About 4 percent of the patients undergoing pulmonary artery catheterization experienced complications, including cardiac arrest and infection but there were no PAC-related deaths. Patients in both groups studied those who received a PAC and those whose therapy was guided by clinical assessment spent about 8 days in the hospital.

ESCAPE was a randomized clinical trial of 433 patients at 26 sites in the U.S. and Canada. The p

Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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