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Weekend heart attacks twice as likely to kill young patients

Embargo: 3 March 2018 at 14:00 CET

Acute Cardiac Care

Milan, Italy – 3 March 2018: Young heart attack patients are twice as likely to die if they are admitted to hospital during the weekend compared to a weekday, according to an Italian study in more than 80,000 patients presented today at Acute Cardiovascular Care 2018.1

“Excess deaths at weekends were reported for heart attack patients a decade ago2 and we wanted to see if the situation had improved,” said lead author Dr Giovanni Malanchini, resident in cardiology at the University of Milan, Italy, under the supervision of Professor Federico Lombardi. “We also looked at whether there were differences by age or sex.”

The study included all 80,391 patients with an acute coronary syndrome3 admitted to a hospital in the Lombardy region of Italy for less than 20 days between January 2010 and December 2014. Age and sex data were collected from discharge charts. The primary outcome of interest was in-hospital mortality.

Patients, on average, were 67 years old, and 70% were men. A total of 2,455 patients (3%) died while in hospital.

When all patients were analysed, the researchers found a 13% higher risk of death in those admitted at weekends compared to weekdays.

Dr Malanchini said: “We analysed data from the Milan area, which provides some of the best treatment for heart patients in Italy. Yet even here we are not delivering the best care every day of the week.”

The researchers then analysed outcome according to different age cut-offs (under 45, 55, 65, 75, and over 75 years). They found that the risk of dying during a weekend admission got progressively greater as age declined (see figure). Patients under 45 had a more than two-fold risk of dying at the weekend, while the excess risk in the over-75s was just 5%.

Professor Lombardi said: “This is a new finding, that younger heart attack patients are particularly vulnerable to the excess mortality linked to weekend admissions.”

Men and women were then analysed separately. The researchers found that men admitted on any day of the week with an acute coronary syndrome had a 15% lower risk of death than women. Men were more susceptible to the ‘weekend effect’, with a 15% increased of death compared to 11% for women.

The observational study did not examine the reasons for the excess mortality at weekends, and the causes are likely multifactorial. But authors said that patients admitted at weekends may have to wait longer for reperfusion therapy to open occluded arteries and restore blood flow.

“The delay in reperfusion during weekends may be more important in younger patients,” said Dr Malanchini. “This is usually their first acute coronary syndrome and they are not receiving aspirin, drugs to lower cholesterol (statins), or drugs to lower blood pressure (angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and beta-blockers). This could make them more vulnerable.”

Professor Lombardi said: “The belief that heart attacks are a ‘man’s problem’ may contribute to a longer gap between symptoms and treatment in women every day of the week, with a resulting higher mortality.”

Figure: Weekend odds ratio for in-hospital mortality according to age



Notes to editor

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Notes to editor





Data was obtained from the Italian Ministry of Health - SDO Databank.

References and notes

1 The abstract ‘Higher mortality during weekend admission for acute coronary syndromes: still a matter of concern’ will be presented during the session Optimisation of STEMI treatment on 3 March at 14:00 to 15:30 in Amber Halls 1–2.

2 Kostis WJ, et al. Weekend versus weekday admission and mortality from myocardial infarction. N Engl J Med. 2007;356(11):1099–1109.

3 Acute myocardial infarction or unstable angina. 

About the Acute Cardiovascular Care Association

The Acute Cardiovascular Care Association (ACCA) is a registered branch of the ESC. Its mission is to improve the quality of care and outcomes of patients with acute cardiovascular diseases.

About the European Society of Cardiology

The ESC brings together health care professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people to live longer, healthier lives.

Information for journalists attending Acute Cardiovascular Care 2018

Acute Cardiovascular Care 2018 takes place 3 to 5 March at the MiCo Milano Congressi in Milan, Italy. The full scientific programme is available here

  • To register on-site please bring avalid press card or appropriate letter of assignment with proof of three recent published articles (cardiology or health-related, or referring to a previous ESC Event).
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