Factors that precipitate hospitalization for exacerbation of heart failure provide targets for intervention to prevent hospitalizations.


To describe demographic, clinical, behavioral, and psychosocial factors that precipitate admission for exacerbation of heart failure and assess the relationships between precipitating factors and delay before hospitalization, and between delay time and length of hospital stay.


All admissions in 12 full months to a tertiary medical center were reviewed if the patient had a discharge code related to heart failure. Data on confirmed admissions for exacerbation of heart failure were included in the study. Electronic and paper medical records were reviewed to identify how long it took patients to seek care after they became aware of signs and symptoms, factors that precipitated exacerbation, and discharge details.


Exacerbation of heart failure was confirmed in 482 patients. Dyspnea was the most common symptom (92.5% of patients), and 20.3% of patients waited until they were severely dyspneic before seeking treatment. The most common precipitating factor was poor medication adherence. Delay times from symptom awareness to seeking treatment were shorter in patients who had a recent change in medicine for heart failure, renal failure, or poor medication adherence and longer in patients with depressive symptoms and hypertension.


Depressive symptoms, recent change in heart failure medicine, renal failure, poor medication adherence, and hypertension are risk factors for hospitalizations for exacerbation of heart failure.

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