Innovative Tool Developed at Intermountain Medical Center to Determine an Individual’s Risk of Heart Problems Can Also be Used to Predict Survival Rates for Patients with Implanted Defibrillators

Jess Gomez



MURRAY, UT - An innovative measurement tool developed at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, to determine an individual's risk of heart problems can also be used to predict survival rates for heart failure patients who have implanted defibrillators. This will significantly help physicians in deciding how to proceed with treatment, according to a new study presented today in Boston.

“Many patients with heart failure believe that once they have a defibrillator they are safe,” says Benjamin Horne, PhD, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center. “However, there are patients who need additional follow-up. The Intermountain Risk Score can help physicians know if there are other issues that put their patients at risk.”

Researchers from the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center will present their findings today (Monday, September 19), at the 15th annual scientific meetings of the Heart Failure Society of America in Boston.

Certain patients with chronic heart failure are at risk for sudden cardiac death, a lethal heart rhythm problem. A small, battery-powered device called an implantable cardiovertor defibrillator (ICD) is often implanted in a patient's chest, where it can deliver a jolt of electricity or serve as a pacemaker if a serious rhythm problem occurs. But an ICD alone does not guarantee survival for all heart failure patients.

Many heart failure patients also have other potentially lethal conditions, including kidney and liver disease, diabetes or inflammatory factors. That’s where the Intermountain Risk Score tool can help.

The Intermountain Risk Score is an inexpensive tool that looks at age, gender, and routine blood tests to evaluate a patient's likelihood of developing cardiovascular problems. The researcher's new study demonstrates that the tool is very accurate in predicting survival for heart failure patients.

The new study looked at 780 heart failure patients and used the scoring system to determine their risk levels. Of the low-risk group, only 2.4 percent of patients died within one year, compared to 28.2 percent of the high-risk group.

While not every patient will be able to improve their level, many can reduce their risk by following the advice of their doctor about taking proper medications, exercising, monitoring sodium intake, and eating right,says Dr. Horne.

He also has some advice for heart failure patients with an ICD.

“If a patient has an ICD and is still feeling ill, he or she should follow up with their physician. Patients need to partner with their physicians for good medical care,” he says.

The Intermountain Risk Score was developed in 2010 by researchers at the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center and was named one of the most accurate risk measurement tools available for adults in the July edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center, part of the Intermountain Healthcare system, is one the premier cardiovascular centers in the nation.
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