Although cardiovascular disease (CVD) is known to often strike the mortal blow in patients with cancer, a national analysis puts in stark relief the burden of CV-related hospitalizations in this vulnerable population.
, whereas admissions fell 10.9% among those without cancer.
Admissions increased steadily across all cancer types, except prostate cancer, with heart failure being the most common reason for admission.
“Hospital admissions is really important because we know that the size of this group is increasing, given that they live longer and many of the treatments that we offer cause cardiovascular disease or increase the risk of having cardiovascular events. So, from a health care planning perspective, I think it’s really important to see what the burden is likely to be in the next few years,” senior author Mamas Mamas, MD, Keele University, England, told this news organization.
For physicians and the wider population, he said, the findings underscore the need to shift the conversation from saying that patients with cancer are at increased CVD risk to asking how to mitigate this risk. “Because I would say that this increase in cardiovascular admissions, that’s a failure from a preventative perspective.”
The study was published in the European Heart Journal: Quality of Care & Clinical Outcomes.
Individual cancer types
The researchers, led by Ofer Kobo, MD, also with Keele University, used the National Inpatient Sample to identify 42.5 million weighted cases of CV admissions for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), pulmonary embolism, ischemic stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation (AFib) or atrial flutter, and intracranial hemorrhage from January 2004 to December 2017. Of these, 1.9 million had a record of cancer.
Patients with cancer were older; had a higher prevalence of valvular disease, anemia, and coagulopathy; and had a lower prevalence of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and obesity than did patients without cancer.
The most common cancer type was hematologic cancers (26.1%), followed by lung (18.7%), gastrointestinal (12.4%), prostate (11.6%), breast (6.7%), and other in 24.4%.
The admission rate increased across all six admission causes – between 7% for AMI and ischemic stroke and 46% for AFib.
Heart failure was the chief reason for admission among all patients. Annual rates per 100,000 U.S. population increased in patients with cancer (from 13.6 to 16.6; P for trend = .02) and declined in those without (from 352.2 to 349.8; P for trend < .001).
“In the past, patients would be started on medications, and perhaps the importance of monitoring [left ventricular] LV function wasn’t as widely known, whereas now we’re much more aggressive in looking at it and much more aggressive at trying to prevent it,” Dr. Mamas said. “But even with this greater identification and attempting to modify regimens, we’re still getting quite substantial increases in heart failure admissions in this population. And what really surprised me is that it wasn’t just in the breast cancer population, but it was nearly across the board.”
He noted that patients are at highest risk from CV events within the first 2 years of cancer diagnosis. “So that’s really the time where you’ve got to be really aggressive in looking and working up their cardiovascular profile.”
Patients with hematologic cancers (9.7-13.5), lung (7.4-8.9), and gastrointestinal cancer (4.6-6.3) had the highest crude admission rates of CV hospitalizations per 100,000 U.S. population.
The CV admission rate went up from 2.5 to 3.7 per 100,000 U.S. population for breast cancer, and in prostate cancer, the rate dropped from 5.8 to 4.8 per 100,000 U.S. population.
Of note, patients with hematologic cancers also had the highest rate of heart failure hospitalization across all cancer types, which, coupled with their increasing admission rates, likely reflects their exposure to a “constellation of cardiotoxic therapies” as well as pathologic processes related to the cancers themselves, the authors suggest.
In-hospital mortality rates were higher among patients with cancer than those without, ranging from 5% for patients with breast cancer to 9.6% for patients with lung cancer versus 4.2% for those without cancer.
Among patients with cancer, the odds ratio for mortality was highest in those admitted with AFib (4.43), followed by pulmonary embolism (2.36), AMI (2.31), ischemic stroke (2.29), and heart failure (2.24).
In line with prior work and general population trends, in-hospital deaths in primary CV admissions trended lower among patients with cancer over the study period.