Hospital stays for heart failure in the United States have dropped significantly over the past decade, reveals study.
Heart failure is one of the most expensive and common conditions in the United States, costing about $39.2 billion in 2010, according to research by Yale University doctors published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Heart failure is the most frequent cause of hospitalization for Medicare beneficiaries, who are mainly people over 65 who receive government health insurance coverage.
"The overall decline in the heart failure hospitalization rate was mainly due to fewer individual patients being hospitalized with heart failure rather than a reduction in the frequency of repeat hospitalizations," said lead author Jersey Chen.
"Age-adjusted HF (heart failure) hospitalization rates declined over the study period for all race-sex categories, with black men having the lowest rate of decline."
The study reviewed data from 55 million Medicare beneficiaries who were hospitalized in the United States and Puerto Rico between 1998 and 2008.
There were an estimated 229,000 fewer hospitalizations for heart failure in 2008 compared to 1998, it said.
With an average hospitalization cost of $18,000 per event, "this decline represents a savings of $4.1 billion in fee-for-service Medicare," the study said.
However, the reasons for the decline were unclear because big variations were seen state by state, and the data showed "marked differences in outcomes that are not explained by insurance status," said Chen.