Women, Black adults less likely to be diagnosed with heart failure in primary care

A 3D image of the heart is shown

Primary care doctors miss about one-third of heart failure diagnoses, which patients may discover after visiting the hospital for a medical emergency, according to a study in Circulation: Heart Failure. The authors found that women, Black adults, and patients with lower incomes were more likely to miss a heart failure diagnosis in a primary care setting.

Every year, about 1 million Americans are diagnosed with heart failurewhich can be treated with different therapies and interventions to slow progression of the disease and support a patient’s quality of life. Despite the benefits of an earlier diagnosis, the authors found that Black patients compared to white adults, women compared to men, and those with fewer financial resources compared to those with a net worth of more than $500,000 were more likely to receive a heart failure diagnosis after visiting the emergency room or receiving urgent care.

To generate these findings, researchers analyzed the medical records of 959,438 patients diagnosed with heart failure over a 16-year period and looked at preceding events. In addition to finding that 38% of patients received a heart failure diagnosis following a medical emergency, they discovered that about half of these patients, 46%, experienced heart failure symptoms several months before. This might include shortness of breath, swollen hands or feet, coughing, or chest pain. The authors cited studies noting heart failure diagnoses following acute events are on the rise globally but stressed opportunities for and the potential benefits of earlier monitoring and interventions.

NHLBI and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences supported this research.