Advances in medical therapy have improved outcomes for many ambulatory patients with heart failure and low ejection fraction (EF; a measure of how much blood the left ventricle of the heart pumps out with each contraction), according to background information in the article. However, each year an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 patients are hospitalized for heart failure with low EF, and the 1-year survival rate after hospitalization may be as low as 50 percent, even with recommended medical therapies. Recent studies have indicated that pulmonary artery catheters (PAC), a device used to monitor hemodynamic status and guide therapy, may increase the risk of death for hospitalized patients.
Lynne W. Stevenson, M.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, and colleagues with the Evaluation Study of Congestive Heart Failure and Pulmonary Artery Catheterization Effectiveness (ESCAPE) trial, tested the hypothesis that for patients with severe heart failure, therapy guided by PAC monitoring and clinical assessment would lead to more days alive and fewer days hospitalized during 6 months compared with therapy guided by clinical assessment alone. The randomized controlled trial included 433 patients at 26 sites and was conducted from January 18, 2000, to November 17, 2003. Patients were assigned to receive clinical assessment and a PAC or clinical assessment alone. The primary goal in both groups was resolution of clinical congestion, with other targets based on levels of pulmonary artery and right atrial pressures.
The researchers found that therapy in both groups led to substantial reduction in symptoms, jugular venous pressure, and edema (swelling from fluid buildup). Use of the PAC did not significantly affect the primary end point of
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