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1.  Associations between Stroke Mortality and Weekend Working by Stroke Specialist Physicians and Registered Nurses: Prospective Multicentre Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(8):e1001705.
In a multicenter observational study, Benjamin Bray and colleagues evaluate whether weekend rounds by stroke specialist physicians, or the ratio of registered nurses to beds on weekends, is associated with patient mortality after stroke.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Observational studies have reported higher mortality for patients admitted on weekends. It is not known whether this “weekend effect” is modified by clinical staffing levels on weekends. We aimed to test the hypotheses that rounds by stroke specialist physicians 7 d per week and the ratio of registered nurses to beds on weekends are associated with mortality after stroke.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a prospective cohort study of 103 stroke units (SUs) in England. Data of 56,666 patients with stroke admitted between 1 June 2011 and 1 December 2012 were extracted from a national register of stroke care in England. SU characteristics and staffing levels were derived from cross-sectional survey. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) of 30-d post-admission mortality, adjusting for case mix, organisational, staffing, and care quality variables. After adjusting for confounders, there was no significant difference in mortality risk for patients admitted to a stroke service with stroke specialist physician rounds fewer than 7 d per week (adjusted HR [aHR] 1.04, 95% CI 0.91–1.18) compared to patients admitted to a service with rounds 7 d per week. There was a dose–response relationship between weekend nurse/bed ratios and mortality risk, with the highest risk of death observed in stroke services with the lowest nurse/bed ratios. In multivariable analysis, patients admitted on a weekend to a SU with 1.5 nurses/ten beds had an estimated adjusted 30-d mortality risk of 15.2% (aHR 1.18, 95% CI 1.07–1.29) compared to 11.2% for patients admitted to a unit with 3.0 nurses/ten beds (aHR 0.85, 95% CI 0.77–0.93), equivalent to one excess death per 25 admissions. The main limitation is the risk of confounding from unmeasured characteristics of stroke services.
Conclusions
Mortality outcomes after stroke are associated with the intensity of weekend staffing by registered nurses but not 7-d/wk ward rounds by stroke specialist physicians. The findings have implications for quality improvement and resource allocation in stroke care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In a perfect world, a patient admitted to hospital on a weekend or during the night should have as good an outcome as a patient admitted during regular working hours. But several observational studies (investigations that record patient outcomes without intervening in any way; clinical trials, by contrast, test potential healthcare interventions by comparing the outcomes of patients who are deliberately given different treatments) have reported that admission on weekends is associated with a higher mortality (death) rate than admission on weekdays. This “weekend effect” has led to calls for increased medical and nursing staff to be available in hospitals during the weekend and overnight to ensure that the healthcare provided at these times is of equal quality to that provided during regular working hours. In the UK, for example, “seven-day working” has been identified as a policy and service improvement priority for the National Health Service.
Why Was This Study Done?
Few studies have actually tested the relationship between patient outcomes and weekend physician or nurse staffing levels. It could be that patients who are admitted to hospital on the weekend have poor outcomes because they are generally more ill than those admitted on weekdays. Before any health system introduces potentially expensive increases in weekend staffing levels, better evidence that this intervention will improve patient outcomes is needed. In this prospective cohort study (a study that compares the outcomes of groups of people with different baseline characteristics), the researchers ask whether mortality after stroke is associated with weekend working by stroke specialist physicians and registered nurses. Stroke occurs when the brain's blood supply is interrupted by a blood vessel in the brain bursting (hemorrhagic stroke) or being blocked by a blood clot (ischemic stroke). Swift treatment can limit the damage to the brain caused by stroke, but of the 15 million people who have a stroke every year, about 6 million die within a few hours and another 5 million are left disabled.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers extracted clinical data on 56,666 patients who were admitted to stroke units in England over an 18-month period from a national stroke register. They obtained information on the characteristics and staffing levels of the stroke units from a biennial survey of hospitals admitting patients with stroke, and information on deaths among patients with stroke from the national register of deaths. A quarter of the patients were admitted on a weekend, almost half the stroke units provided stroke specialist physician rounds seven days per week, and the remainder provided rounds five days per week. After adjustment for factors that might have affected outcomes (“confounders”) such as stroke severity and the level of acute stroke care available in each stroke unit, there was no significant difference in mortality risk between patients admitted to a stroke unit with rounds seven days/week and patients admitted to a unit with rounds fewer than seven days/week. However, patients admitted on a weekend to a stroke unit with 1.5 nurses/ten beds had a 30-day mortality risk of 15.2%, whereas patients admitted to a unit with 3.0 nurses/ten beds had a mortality risk of 11.2%, a mortality risk difference equivalent to one excess death per 25 admissions.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the provision of stroke specialist physician rounds seven days/week in stroke units in England did not influence the (weak) association between weekend admission for stroke and death recorded in this study, but mortality outcomes after stroke were associated with the intensity of weekend staffing by registered nurses. The accuracy of these findings may be affected by the measure used to judge the level of acute care available in each stroke unit and by residual confounding. For example, patients admitted to units with lower nursing levels may have shared other unknown characteristics that increased their risk of dying after stroke. Moreover, this study considered the impact of staffing levels on mortality only and did not consider other relevant outcomes such as long-term disability. Despite these limitations, these findings support the provision of higher weekend ratios of registered nurses to beds in stroke units, but given the high costs of increasing weekend staffing levels, it is important that controlled trials of different models of physician and nursing staffing are undertaken as soon as possible.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001705.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Meeta Kerlin
Information about plans to introduce seven-day working into the National Health Service in England is available; the 2013 publication “NHS Services—Open Seven Days a Week: Every Day Counts” provides examples of how hospitals across England are working together to provide routine healthcare services seven days a week; a “Behind the Headlines” article on the UK National Health Service Choices website describes a recent observational study that investigated the association between admission to hospital on the weekend and death, and newspaper coverage of the study's results; the Choices website also provides information about stroke for patients and their families, including personal stories
A US nurses' site includes information on the association of nurse staffing with patient safety
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information about all aspects of stroke (in English and Spanish); its Know Stroke site provides educational materials about stroke prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, including personal stories (in English and Spanish); the US National Institute of Health SeniorHealth website has additional information about stroke
The Internet Stroke Center provides detailed information about stroke for patients, families, and health professionals (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001705
PMCID: PMC4138029  PMID: 25137386
2.  Comparing hospital mortality – how to count does matter for patients hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), stroke and hip fracture 
Background
Mortality is a widely used, but often criticised, quality indicator for hospitals. In many countries, mortality is calculated from in-hospital deaths, due to limited access to follow-up data on patients transferred between hospitals and on discharged patients. The objectives were to: i) summarize time, place and cause of death for first time acute myocardial infarction (AMI), stroke and hip fracture, ii) compare case-mix adjusted 30-day mortality measures based on in-hospital deaths and in-and-out-of hospital deaths, with and without patients transferred to other hospitals.
Methods
Norwegian hospital data within a 5-year period were merged with information from official registers. Mortality based on in-and-out-of-hospital deaths, weighted according to length of stay at each hospital for transferred patients (W30D), was compared to a) mortality based on in-and-out-of-hospital deaths excluding patients treated at two or more hospitals (S30D), and b) mortality based on in-hospital deaths (IH30D). Adjusted mortalities were estimated by logistic regression which, in addition to hospital, included age, sex and stage of disease. The hospitals were assigned outlier status according to the Z-values for hospitals in the models; low mortality: Z-values below the 5-percentile, high mortality: Z-values above the 95-percentile, medium mortality: remaining hospitals.
Results
The data included 48 048 AMI patients, 47 854 stroke patients and 40 142 hip fracture patients from 55, 59 and 58 hospitals, respectively. The overall relative frequencies of deaths within 30 days were 19.1% (AMI), 17.6% (stroke) and 7.8% (hip fracture). The cause of death diagnoses included the referral diagnosis for 73.8-89.6% of the deaths within 30 days. When comparing S30D versus W30D outlier status changed for 14.6% (AMI), 15.3% (stroke) and 36.2% (hip fracture) of the hospitals. For IH30D compared to W30D outlier status changed for 18.2% (AMI), 25.4% (stroke) and 27.6% (hip fracture) of the hospitals.
Conclusions
Mortality measures based on in-hospital deaths alone, or measures excluding admissions for transferred patients, can be misleading as indicators of hospital performance. We propose to attribute the outcome to all hospitals by fraction of time spent in each hospital for patients transferred between hospitals to reduce bias due to double counting or exclusion of hospital stays.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-364
PMCID: PMC3526398  PMID: 23088745
Mortality; Quality indicator; Transferred patients; AMI; Stroke; Hip fracture; Cause of death; Hospital comparison; Episode of care
3.  Decline in Diarrhea Mortality and Admissions after Routine Childhood Rotavirus Immunization in Brazil: A Time-Series Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1001024.
A time series analysis by Manish Patel and colleagues shows that the introduction of rotavirus vaccination in Brazil is associated with reduced diarrhea-related deaths and hospital admissions in children under 5 years of age.
Background
In 2006, Brazil began routine immunization of infants <15 wk of age with a single-strain rotavirus vaccine. We evaluated whether the rotavirus vaccination program was associated with declines in childhood diarrhea deaths and hospital admissions by monitoring disease trends before and after vaccine introduction in all five regions of Brazil with varying disease burden and distinct socioeconomic and health indicators.
Methods and Findings
National data were analyzed with an interrupted time-series analysis that used diarrhea-related mortality or hospitalization rates as the main outcomes. Monthly mortality and admission rates estimated for the years after rotavirus vaccination (2007–2009) were compared with expected rates calculated from pre-vaccine years (2002–2005), adjusting for secular and seasonal trends. During the three years following rotavirus vaccination in Brazil, rates for diarrhea-related mortality and admissions among children <5 y of age were 22% (95% confidence interval 6%–44%) and 17% (95% confidence interval 5%–27%) lower than expected, respectively. A cumulative total of ∼1,500 fewer diarrhea deaths and 130,000 fewer admissions were observed among children <5 y during the three years after rotavirus vaccination. The largest reductions in deaths (22%–28%) and admissions (21%–25%) were among children younger than 2 y, who had the highest rates of vaccination. In contrast, lower reductions in deaths (4%) and admissions (7%) were noted among children two years of age and older, who were not age-eligible for vaccination during the study period.
Conclusions
After the introduction of rotavirus vaccination for infants, significant declines for three full years were observed in under-5-y diarrhea-related mortality and hospital admissions for diarrhea in Brazil. The largest reductions in diarrhea-related mortality and hospital admissions for diarrhea were among children younger than 2 y, who were eligible for vaccination as infants, which suggests that the reduced diarrhea burden in this age group was associated with introduction of the rotavirus vaccine. These real-world data are consistent with evidence obtained from clinical trials and strengthen the evidence base for the introduction of rotavirus vaccination as an effective measure for controlling severe and fatal childhood diarrhea.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Diarrheal disease, usually caused by infectious agents, is the second major cause of death in children aged under five years. As highlighted in a recent PLoS Medicine series, access to clean water and improved sanitation is the key to the primary prevention of diarrheal illnesses. Yet despite the targets of Millennium Development Goal 7 to half the number of people without access to clean water or improved sanitation by 2015, over one billion people worldwide do not currently have access to clean water and over two billion do not currently have access to improved sanitation.
Since enteric viruses are primarily transmitted directly from one person to another, they cannot be controlled completely by improvements in sanitation. Therefore, although not replacing the urgent need to provide access to clean water and improved sanitation for all, vaccination programs that protect young children against some infections that cause diarrhea, such as rotavirus, which accounts for one-third of all child deaths caused by diarrhea, are a pragmatic way forward. As large clinical trials have shown the safety and efficacy of rotavirus vaccines in population settings, in July 2009, the World Health Organization recommended including rotavirus vaccines into every country's national immunization programs.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the protective effect of rotavirus vaccines has been assessed in various high-, middle-, and low-income settings, for reasons that remain unclear, the efficacy of live, oral rotavirus vaccines appears to be dependent on geographical location and correlated to the socioeconomic status of the population. Because of these concerns, evaluating the health impact of large-scale rotavirus vaccine programs and ensuring their equity in a real-world setting (rather than in clinical trial conditions) is important.
Therefore, the researchers addressed this issue by conducting this study to evaluate the effect of rotavirus vaccination on mortality and hospital admissions for diarrhea due to all causes among young children in the five regions of Brazil. The researchers chose to do this study in Brazil because of the high incidence of diarrhea-related deaths and hospital admissions and because five years ago, in July 2006, the Brazilian Ministry of Health introduced the single-strain rotavirus vaccine simultaneously in all 27 states through its national immunization program—allowing for “before” and “after” intervention analysis.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained data on diarrheal deaths and hospital admissions in children aged under five years for the period 2002–2005 and 2007–2009 and data on rotavirus vaccination rates. The researchers got the data on diarrhea deaths from the Brazilian Mortality Information System—the national database of information collected from death certificates that covers 90% of all deaths in Brazil. The data on hospital admissions came from the electronic Hospital Information System of Brazil's Unified Health System (Sistema Unico de Saúde, SUS)—the publicly funded health-care system that covers roughly 70% of the hospitalizations and includes information on all admissions (from public hospitals and some private hospitals) authorized for payment by the Unified Health System. The researchers got regional rotavirus vaccination coverage estimates for 2007–2009 from the information department of the Ministry of Health, and estimated coverage of the two doses of oral rotavirus vaccine by taking the annual number of second doses administered divided by the number of infants in the region.
In 2007, an estimated 80% of infants received two doses of rotavirus vaccine, and by 2009, this proportion rose to 84% of children younger than one year of age. The researchers found that in the three years following the introduction of rotavirus vaccination, diarrhea-related mortality rates and admissions among children aged under five years were respectively 22% and 17% lower than expected, with a cumulative total of 1,500 fewer diarrhea deaths and 130,000 fewer admissions. Furthermore, the largest reductions in deaths and admissions were among children who had the highest rates of vaccination (less than two years of age), and the lowest reductions were among children who were not eligible for vaccination during the study period (aged 2–4 years).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the introduction of rotavirus vaccination in all areas of Brazil is associated with reduced diarrhea-related deaths and hospital admissions in children aged under five years. These real-world impact data are consistent with the clinical trials and strengthen the evidence base for rotavirus vaccination as an effective measure for controlling severe and fatal childhood diarrhea.
These findings have important global policy implications. In middle-income countries, such as Brazil, that are not eligible for financial support from donors, the potential reductions in admissions and other health-care costs will be important for cost-effectiveness considerations to justify the purchase of these still relatively expensive vaccines.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001024
PLoS Medicine has published a series on water and sanitation
More information is available from the World Health Organization on diarrheal illness in children
More information is available about rotavirus vaccines from the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Rotavirus Vaccine Program
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001024
PMCID: PMC3079643  PMID: 21526228
4.  The systematic assessment of variations in medical practices and their outcomes. 
Public Health Reports  1995;110(1):2-12.
The Health Care Financing Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services has carried out for several years the systematic assessment of variations over time and among geographic locales in patterns of care and patterns of outcomes experienced by Medicare beneficiaries. This routine monitoring focuses principally on hospitalizations and their outcomes (death and readmission) and is based on the Medicare enrollment file and the claims file for inpatient care. The period 1985-88 has been marked by declining adjusted post-admission risks for mortality (down 4 percent) and readmission (down 6 percent) for Medicare beneficiaries. The downward trend in mortality risks is most evident following hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction (down 8 percent) and stroke (down 12 percent). Hospital admission and population mortality rates, adjusted for differences in demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the populations, vary substantially among areas as large as States and Metropolitan Statistical Areas, as do risk-adjusted post admission probabilities of death among those areas and among hospitals. Thus, if overall admission and mortality rates in the upper three quartiles of Metropolitan Statistical Areas were brought down to the average of the lowest quartile, there would be 20 percent fewer admissions and 12 percent fewer deaths within 180 days of admission for hospitalized patients. Although favorable trends in the effectiveness of the hospital care received by Medicare beneficiaries appear discernible, the existence of substantial variations suggests that further improvement may be possible.
PMCID: PMC1382067  PMID: 7838939
5.  Is Thirty-Day Hospital Mortality Really Lower for Black Veterans Compared with White Veterans? 
Health Services Research  2007;42(4):1613-1631.
Objective
To examine the source of observed lower risk-adjusted mortality for blacks than whites within the Veterans Affairs (VA) system by accounting for hospital site where treated, potential under-reporting of black deaths, discretion on hospital admission, quality improvement efforts, and interactions by age group.
Data Sources
Data are from the VA Patient Treatment File on 406,550 hospitalizations of veterans admitted with a principal diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction, stroke, hip fracture, gastrointestinal bleeding, congestive heart failure, or pneumonia between 1996 and 2002. Information on deaths was obtained from the VA Beneficiary Identification Record Locator System and the National Death Index.
Study Design
This was a retrospective observational study of hospitalizations throughout the VA system nationally. The primary outcome studied was all-location mortality within 30 days of hospital admission. The key study variable was whether a patient was black or white.
Principal Findings
For each of the six study conditions, unadjusted 30-day mortality rates were significantly lower for blacks than for whites (p < 0.01). These results did not vary after adjusting for hospital site where treated, more complete ascertainment of deaths, and in comparing results for conditions for which hospital admission is discretionary versus nondiscretionary. There were also no significant changes in the degree of difference by race in mortality by race following quality improvement efforts within VA. Risk-adjusted mortality was consistently lower for blacks than for whites only within the population of veterans over age 65.
Conclusions
Black veterans have significantly lower 30-day mortality than white veterans for six common, high severity conditions, but this is generally limited to veterans over age 65. This differential by age suggests that it is unlikely that lower 30-day mortality rates among blacks within VA are driven by treatment differences by race.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00688.x
PMCID: PMC1955274  PMID: 17610440
Hospital mortality; racial disparities; hospitals; veterans
6.  National trends in rates of death and hospital admissions related to acute myocardial infarction, heart failure and stroke, 1994–2004 
Background
Rates of death from cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases have been steadily declining over the past few decades. Whether such declines are occurring to a similar degree for common disorders such as acute myocardial infarction, heart failure and stroke is uncertain. We examined recent national trends in mortality and rates of hospital admission for these 3 conditions.
Methods
We analyzed mortality data from Statistic Canada’s Canadian Mortality Database and data on hospital admissions from the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s Hospital Morbidity Database for the period 1994–2004. We determined age- and sex-standardized rates of death and hospital admissions per 100 000 population aged 20 years and over as well as in-hospital case-fatality rates.
Results
The overall age- and sex-standardized rate of death from cardiovascular disease in Canada declined 30.0%, from 360.6 per 100 000 in 1994 to 252.5 per 100 000 in 2004. During the same period, the rate fell 38.1% for acute myocardial infarction, 23.5% for heart failure and 28.2% for stroke, with improvements observed across most age and sex groups. The age- and sex-standardized rate of hospital admissions decreased 27.6% for stroke and 27.2% for heart failure. The rate for acute myocardial infarction fell only 9.2%. In contrast, the relative decline in the inhospital case-fatality rate was greatest for acute myocardial infarction (33.1%; p < 0.001). Much smaller relative improvements in case-fatality rates were noted for heart failure (8.1%) and stroke (8.9%).
Interpretation
The rates of death and hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure and stroke in Canada changed at different rates over the 10-year study period. Awareness of these trends may guide future efforts for health promotion and health care planning and help to determine priorities for research and treatment.
doi:10.1503/cmaj.081197
PMCID: PMC2696549  PMID: 19546444
7.  Stress Hyperglycaemia in Hospitalised Patients and Their 3-Year Risk of Diabetes: A Scottish Retrospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(8):e1001708.
In a retrospective analysis of a national database of hospital admissions, David McAllister and colleagues identify the 3-year risk of diabetes of hospitalized patients with hyperglycemia in Scotland.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Hyperglycaemia during hospital admission is common in patients who are not known to have diabetes and is associated with adverse outcomes. The risk of subsequently developing type 2 diabetes, however, is not known.
We linked a national database of hospital admissions with a national register of diabetes to describe the association between admission glucose and the risk of subsequently developing type 2 diabetes.
Methods and Findings
In a retrospective cohort study, patients aged 30 years or older with an emergency admission to hospital between 2004 and 2008 were included. Prevalent and incident diabetes were identified through the Scottish Care Information (SCI)-Diabetes Collaboration national registry. Patients diagnosed prior to or up to 30 days after hospitalisation were defined as prevalent diabetes and were excluded.
The predicted risk of developing incident type 2 diabetes during the 3 years following hospital discharge by admission glucose, age, and sex was obtained from logistic regression models. We performed separate analyses for patients aged 40 and older, and patients aged 30 to 39 years.
Glucose was measured in 86,634 (71.0%) patients aged 40 and older on admission to hospital. The 3-year risk of developing type 2 diabetes was 2.3% (1,952/86,512) overall, was <1% for a glucose ≤5 mmol/l, and increased to approximately 15% at 15 mmol/l. The risks at 7 mmol/l and 11.1 mmol/l were 2.6% (95% CI 2.5–2.7) and 9.9% (95% CI 9.2–10.6), respectively, with one in four (21,828/86,512) and one in 40 (1,798/86,512) patients having glucose levels above each of these cut-points. For patients aged 30–39, the risks at 7 mmol/l and 11.1 mmol/l were 1.0% (95% CI 0.8–1.3) and 7.8% (95% CI 5.7–10.7), respectively, with one in eight (1,588/11,875) and one in 100 (120/11,875) having glucose levels above each of these cut-points.
The risk of diabetes was also associated with age, sex, and socio-economic deprivation, but not with specialty (medical versus surgical), raised white cell count, or co-morbidity. Similar results were obtained for pre-specified sub-groups admitted with myocardial infarction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and stroke.
There were 25,193 deaths (85.8 per 1,000 person-years) over 297,122 person-years, of which 2,406 (8.1 per 1,000 person-years) were attributed to vascular disease. Patients with glucose levels of 11.1 to 15 mmol/l and >15 mmol/l had higher mortality than patients with a glucose of <6.1 mmol/l (hazard ratio 1.54; 95% CI 1.42–1.68 and 2.50; 95% CI 2.14–2.95, respectively) in models adjusting for age and sex.
Limitations of our study include that we did not have data on ethnicity or body mass index, which may have improved prediction and the results have not been validated in non-white populations or populations outside of Scotland.
Conclusion
Plasma glucose measured during an emergency hospital admission predicts subsequent risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Mortality was also 1.5-fold higher in patients with elevated glucose levels. Our findings can be used to inform patients of their long-term risk of type 2 diabetes, and to target lifestyle advice to those patients at highest risk.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Insulin—a hormone released by the pancreas after meals—controls blood glucose (sugar) levels in healthy individuals. However, many patients admitted to hospital because of an acute illness have hyperglycemia, an abnormally high blood glucose level. In this setting, hyperglycemia can be caused by the drugs that patients are taking for existing conditions or may be stress hyperglycemia, a reversible condition in which hormonal changes induced by acute illness stimulate glucose production by the liver. However, hyperglycemia detected during an acute illness may also indicate underlying or incipient type 2 diabetes, a common condition in which blood glucose control fails. Type 2 diabetes can initially be controlled by diet, exercise, and antidiabetic drugs but many patients eventually need insulin injections to control their blood sugar level. Long-term complications of type 2 diabetes, which include an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, reduce the life expectancy of people with diabetes by about 10 years compared to people without diabetes
Why Was This Study Done?
Prompt diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can minimize its long-term complications, so experts have designed several scoring systems based on lifestyle and other characteristics that allow primary care clinicians to identify the patients who should be tested for diabetes because they are at high risk of developing the condition. Unfortunately, these scoring systems cannot be used to interpret a high blood glucose result obtained during an acute illness so clinicians cannot currently advise their patients on the clinical significance of this type of abnormal glucose reading or make an informed decision about whether follow-up testing is needed. In this retrospective cohort study, the researchers investigate the association between blood glucose levels measured during emergency hospital admissions in Scotland and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by linking together national databases of hospital admissions, laboratory test results, and people with diabetes. A retrospective cohort study examines the medical histories of a group of patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the databases to identify more than 100,000 patients aged 30 years or older who were admitted to a hospital for an acute illness between 2004 and 2008 in Scotland, to obtain information on blood glucose levels on admission for nearly three-quarters of these patients, and to identify which patients subsequently developed diabetes. They then used statistical models to estimate the patients' risk of developing type 2 diabetes during the 3 years following hospital discharge. Among patients aged 40 years or older, the overall 3-year risk of developing diabetes was 2.3%. The risk of developing diabetes increased linearly with increasing blood glucose level at admission. Specifically, the 3-year risks at blood glucose levels of 7 mmol/l and 11.1 mmol/l were 2.6% and 9.9%, respectively; because glucose levels fluctuate according to when an individual last ate, fasting blood glucose levels of 7 mmol/l and non-fasting blood glucose levels of 11.1 mmol/l are used as thresholds for the diagnosis of diabetes. The diabetes risk associated with blood glucose levels on admission among 30–39-year-old patients followed a similar pattern but was less marked. Finally, high glucose levels on admission were associated with increased mortality.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that blood glucose measured during an emergency hospital admission predicts the subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes among patients aged 40 years or older (the analysis specified in the researchers' original protocol). Importantly, however, they also suggest that a high blood glucose reading in these circumstances usually indicates stress hyperglycemia rather than type 2 diabetes. The accuracy and generalizability of these findings may be limited by the lack of data on ethnicity or body mass index (a measure of obesity), both of which affect diabetes risk, and by other aspects of the study design. Nevertheless, given their findings, the researchers recommend that any patient with a blood glucose level above 11.1 mmol/l on hospital admission for an acute illness (one in 40 patients in this study) should be offered follow-up testing. In addition, the researchers constructed a risk calculator using their findings that should help clinicians to inform their patients about their long-term risk of diabetes following hyperglycemia during an acute hospital admission and to target lifestyle advice to those patients at the highest risk of type 2 diabetes.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001708.
The US National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse provides information about diabetes and about diabetes prevention (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about type 2 diabetes and about living with diabetes; it also provides people's stories about diabetes
The charity Diabetes UK provides information about diabetes in several languages, including information on healthy lifestyles for people with diabetes
Wikipedia has a page on stress hyperglycemia (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
More information about stress hyperglycemia is available in Diapedia, a living textbook of diabetes produced by the European Association for the Study of Diabetes
GUARD (Glucose on Unselected Admissions and Risk of Diabetes), a risk calculator that allows clinicians to estimate a patient's 3-year risk of diabetes following hyperglycemia at hospital admission for an acute illness, is available online
The UK-based non-profit organization Healthtalkonline has interviews with people about their experiences of diabetes
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources and advice about diabetes and diabetes prevention (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001708
PMCID: PMC4138030  PMID: 25136809
8.  The epidemiology of severe sepsis in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 1996 to 2004: secondary analysis of a high quality clinical database, the ICNARC Case Mix Programme Database 
Critical Care  2006;10(2):R42.
Introduction
To evaluate the impact of recent evidence-based treatments for severe sepsis in routine clinical care requires an understanding of the underlying epidemiology, particularly with regard to trends over time. We interrogated a high quality clinical database to examine trends in the incidence and mortality of severe sepsis over a nine-year period.
Methods
Admissions with severe sepsis occurring at any time within 24 hours of admission to critical care were identified to an established methodology using raw physiological data from the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre (ICNARC) Case Mix Programme Database, containing data from 343,860 admissions to 172 adult, general critical care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland between December 1995 and January 2005. Generalised linear models were used to assess changes in the incidence, case mix, outcomes and activity of these admissions.
Results
In total, 92,672 admissions (27.0%) were identified as having severe sepsis in the first 24 hours following admission. The percentage of admissions with severe sepsis during the first 24 hours rose from 23.5% in 1996 to 28.7% in 2004. This represents an increase from an estimated 18,500 to 31,000 admissions to all 240 adult, general critical care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Hospital mortality for admissions with severe sepsis decreased from 48.3% in 1996 to 44.7% in 2004, but the total number of deaths increased from an estimated 9,000 to 14,000. The treated incidence of severe sepsis per 100,000 population rose from 46 in 1996 to 66 in 2003, with the associated number of hospital deaths per 100,000 population rising from 23 to 30.
Conclusion
The population incidence of critical care admission with severe sepsis during the first 24 hours and associated hospital deaths are increasing. These baseline data provide essential information to those wishing to evaluate the introduction of the Surviving Sepsis Campaign care bundles in UK hospitals.
doi:10.1186/cc4854
PMCID: PMC1550902  PMID: 16542492
9.  A Longitudinal Study of Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco Dependence Treatments in Massachusetts and Associated Decreases in Hospitalizations for Cardiovascular Disease 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000375.
Thomas Land and colleagues show that among Massachusetts Medicaid subscribers, use of a comprehensive tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit was followed by a substantial decrease in claims for hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction and acute coronary heart disease.
Background
Insurance coverage of tobacco cessation medications increases their use and reduces smoking prevalence in a population. However, uncertainty about the impact of this coverage on health care utilization and costs is a barrier to the broader adoption of this policy, especially by publicly funded state Medicaid insurance programs. Whether a publicly funded tobacco cessation benefit leads to decreased medical claims for tobacco-related diseases has not been studied. We examined the experience of Massachusetts, whose Medicaid program adopted comprehensive coverage of tobacco cessation medications in July 2006. Over 75,000 Medicaid subscribers used the benefit in the first 2.5 years. On the basis of earlier secondary survey work, it was estimated that smoking prevalence declined among subscribers by 10% during this period.
Methods and Findings
Using claims data, we compared the probability of hospitalization prior to use of the tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit with the probability of hospitalization after benefit use among Massachusetts Medicaid beneficiaries, adjusting for demographics, comorbidities, seasonality, influenza cases, and the implementation of the statewide smoke-free air law using generalized estimating equations. Statistically significant annualized declines of 46% (95% confidence interval 2%–70%) and 49% (95% confidence interval 6%–72%) were observed in hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction and other acute coronary heart disease diagnoses, respectively. There were no significant decreases in hospitalizations rates for respiratory diagnoses or seven other diagnostic groups evaluated.
Conclusions
Among Massachusetts Medicaid subscribers, use of a comprehensive tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit was associated with a significant decrease in claims for hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction and acute coronary heart disease, but no significant change in hospital claims for other diagnoses. For low-income smokers, removing the barriers to the use of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy has the potential to decrease short-term utilization of hospital services.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. Globally, it is responsible for one in ten deaths among adults. In developed countries, the death toll is even higher—in the USA and the UK, for example, one in five deaths are caused by cigarette smoking. In the USA alone, where a fifth of adults smoke, smoking accounts for more than 400,000 deaths every year; globally, smoking causes 5 million deaths per year. On average, smokers die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers, and half of all long-term smokers will die prematurely because of a smoking-related disease. These diseases include lung cancer, other types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases such as chronic airway obstruction, bronchitis, and emphysema. And, for every smoker who dies from one of these smoking-related diseases, another 20 will develop at least one serious disease because of their addiction to tobacco.
Why Was This Study Done?
About half of US smokers try to quit each year but most of these attempts fail. Many experts believe that counseling and/or treatment with tobacco cessation medications such as nicotine replacement products help smokers to quit. In the USA, where health care is paid for through private or state health insurance, there is some evidence that insurance coverage of tobacco cessation medications increases their use and reduces smoking prevalence. However, smoking cessation treatment is poorly covered by US health insurance programs, largely because of uncertainty about the impact of such coverage on health care costs. It is unknown, for example, whether the introduction of publicly funded tobacco cessation benefits decreases claims for treatment for tobacco-related diseases. In this longitudinal study (a study that follows a group of individuals over a period of time), the researchers ask whether the adoption of comprehensive coverage of tobacco cessation medications by the Massachusetts Medicaid program (MassHealth) in July 2006 has affected claims for treatment for tobacco-related diseases. During its first two and half years, more than 75,000 MassHealth subscribers used the tobacco cessation medication benefit and smoking prevalence among subscribers declined by approximately 10% (38.3% to 28.8%).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used MassHealth claims data and a statistical method called generalized estimating equations to compare the probability of hospitalization prior to the use of tobacco cessation medication benefit with the probability of hospitalization after benefit use among MassHealth subscribers. After adjusting for other factors that might have affected hospitalization such as influenza outbreaks and the implementation of the Massachusetts Smoke-Free Workplace Law in July 2004, there was a statistically significant annualized decline in hospital admissions for heart attack of 46% after use of the tobacco cessation medication benefit. That is, the calculated annual rate of admissions for heart attacks was 46% lower after use of the benefit than before among MassHealth beneficiaries. There was also a 49% annualized decline in admissions for coronary atherosclerosis, another smoking-related heart disease. There were no significant changes in hospitalization rates for lung diseases (including asthma, pneumonia, and chronic airway obstruction) or for seven other diagnostic groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, among MassHealth subscribers, the use of a tobacco cessation medication benefit was followed by a significant decrease in claims for hospitalization for heart attack and for coronary atherosclerosis but not for other diseases. It does not, however, show that the reduced claims for hospitalization were associated with a reduction in smoking because smoking cessation was not recorded by MassHealth. Furthermore, it is possible that the people who used the tobacco cessation medication benefit shared other characteristics that reduced their chances of hospitalization for heart disease. For example, people using tobacco cessation medication might have been more likely to adhere to prescription schedules for medications such as statins that would also reduce their risk of heart disease. Finally, these findings might be unique to Massachusetts, so similar studies need to be undertaken in other states. Nevertheless, the results of this study suggest that, for low-income smokers, removing financial barriers to the use of smoking cessation medications has the potential to produce short-term decreases in the use of hospital services that will, hopefully, outweigh the costs of comprehensive tobacco cessation medication benefits.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000375.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health has information on all aspects of smoking and health, including advice on how to quit
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site provides advice about quitting smoking; more advice on quitting is provided by Smokefree
The American Heart Association provides information on heart disease, including advice on how to quit smoking (in several languages)
Information about MassHealth is available, including information on smoking and tobacco use prevention
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000375
PMCID: PMC3000429  PMID: 21170313
10.  Correcting Mortality for Loss to Follow-Up: A Nomogram Applied to Antiretroviral Treatment Programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000390.
Matthias Egger and colleagues present a nomogram and a web-based calculator to correct estimates of program-level mortality for loss to follow-up, for use in antiretroviral treatment programs.
Background
The World Health Organization estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa about 4 million HIV-infected patients had started antiretroviral therapy (ART) by the end of 2008. Loss of patients to follow-up and care is an important problem for treatment programmes in this region. As mortality is high in these patients compared to patients remaining in care, ART programmes with high rates of loss to follow-up may substantially underestimate mortality of all patients starting ART.
Methods and Findings
We developed a nomogram to correct mortality estimates for loss to follow-up, based on the fact that mortality of all patients starting ART in a treatment programme is a weighted average of mortality among patients lost to follow-up and patients remaining in care. The nomogram gives a correction factor based on the percentage of patients lost to follow-up at a given point in time, and the estimated ratio of mortality between patients lost and not lost to follow-up. The mortality observed among patients retained in care is then multiplied by the correction factor to obtain an estimate of programme-level mortality that takes all deaths into account. A web calculator directly calculates the corrected, programme-level mortality with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). We applied the method to 11 ART programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. Patients retained in care had a mortality at 1 year of 1.4% to 12.0%; loss to follow-up ranged from 2.8% to 28.7%; and the correction factor from 1.2 to 8.0. The absolute difference between uncorrected and corrected mortality at 1 year ranged from 1.6% to 9.8%, and was above 5% in four programmes. The largest difference in mortality was in a programme with 28.7% of patients lost to follow-up at 1 year.
Conclusions
The amount of bias in mortality estimates can be large in ART programmes with substantial loss to follow-up. Programmes should routinely report mortality among patients retained in care and the proportion of patients lost. A simple nomogram can then be used to estimate mortality among all patients who started ART, for a range of plausible mortality rates among patients lost to follow-up.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since 1981 and about 33 million people (30 million of them in low- and middle-income countries) are now infected with HIV, which causes AIDS. HIV destroys immune system cells, leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-infected people died within 10 years of infection. Then, in 1996, highly active antiretroviral therapy (ART) became available. For people living in affluent, developed countries, HIV/AIDS became a chronic condition, but for people living in low- and middle-income countries, ART was prohibitively expensive and HIV/AIDS remained a fatal illness. In 2003, this situation was declared a global health emergency and governments, international agencies, and funding bodies began to implement plans to increase ART coverage in developing countries. By the end of 2009, 5.25 million of the 14.6 million people in low- and middle-income countries who needed ART (36%) were receiving it.
Why Was This Study Done?
ART program managers in developing countries need to monitor the effectiveness of their programs to ensure that their limited resources are used wisely. In particular, they need accurate records of the death (mortality) rates in their programs. However, in resource-limited countries, many patients drop out of ART programs. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, only about 60% of patients are retained in ART programs 2 years after starting therapy. In many programs, it is not known how many of the patients lost to follow-up subsequently die, but it is known that mortality is higher among these patients than among those who remain in care. Thus, in programs with high dropout rates and poor ascertainment of death in patients lost to follow-up, estimates of the mortality of all patients starting ART are underestimates. In this study, the researchers develop a simple nomogram (a graphical method for finding the value of a third variable from the values of two other variables) to correct estimates of program-level mortality for loss to follow-up.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers' nomogram uses the percentage of patients lost to follow and the estimated ratio of mortality between patients lost and not lost to follow-up to provide a correction factor that converts mortality among patients remaining in care to mortality among all the patients in a program. The researchers first applied their nomogram to the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH), a large ART program in Kenya. They used data collected by outreach teams to estimate mortality among the 40.5% of patients lost to follow-up at two AMPATH sites between 1 January 2005 and 31 January 2007. The uncorrected estimate of mortality over this period was 2.8%, whereas the corrected estimate obtained using the nomogram was 9.4%. The researchers then applied their nomogram to 11 other African ART programs. This time, the researchers used a statistical model to provide estimates of mortality among patients lost to follow-up. Mortality among patients retained in care was 1.4% to 12.0% at 1 year; loss to follow-up ranged from 2.8% to 28.7%. The nomogram provided a correction value for mortality among all patients in the ART program of 1.2 to 8.0, which resulted in absolute differences between uncorrected and corrected mortality of 1.6% to 9.8%. The largest absolute difference was in the program with the largest percentage of patients lost to follow-up.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in ART programs where a large percentage of patients are lost to follow-up, program-level mortality estimates based on the mortality among patients retained in the program can be substantial underestimates. This bias needs to be taken into account when comparing the effectiveness of different programs, so the researchers recommend that all programs routinely report mortality among patients retained in care and the proportion of patients lost to follow-up. The nomogram developed by the researchers can then be used to estimate mortality among all patients who started ART using a range of plausible mortality rates among patients lost to follow-up. To help program managers make use of the nomogram, the researchers provide a user-friendly web calculator based on the nomogram on the International epidemiologic Databases to Evaluate AIDS (IeDEA) Southern Africa website.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000390.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Gregory Bisson
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on the HIV and AIDS in Africa, and on universal access to AIDS treatment (in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to AIDS treatment, including the 2010 progress report (in English, French and Spanish)
The International epidemiologic Databases to Evaluate Aids (IeDEA) Southern Africa website provides access to a calculator for correcting overall program-specific mortality for loss to follow-up
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000390
PMCID: PMC3022522  PMID: 21267057
11.  Association between Stroke Center Hospitalization for Acute Ischemic Stroke and Mortality 
Jama  2011;305(4):373-380.
Context
Although stroke centers are widely accepted and supported, little is known about their impact on patient outcomes.
Objective
To examine the association between admission to stroke centers for an acute ischemic stroke and mortality.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Observational study using data from the New York Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System. We compared mortality for patients admitted with acute ischemic stroke (n=30,947) between 2005 and 2006 at designated stroke centers and non-designated hospitals using differential distance to hospitals as an instrumental variable to adjust for potential pre-hospital selection bias. Patients were followed for mortality for 1 year after the index hospitalization through 2007. To assess whether our findings were specific to stroke, we also compared mortality for patients admitted with gastrointestinal hemorrhage (n=39,409) or acute myocardial infarction (n=40,024) at designated stroke centers and non-designated hospitals.
Main Outcome Measure
Thirty-day all-cause mortality.
Results
Among 30,947 patients with acute ischemic stroke, 15,297 (49.4%) were admitted to designated stroke centers. Using the instrumental variable analysis, admission to designated stroke centers was associated with greater use of thrombolytic therapy (4.8% vs. 1.7%; adjusted difference 2.2%, 95% CI, 1.6% to 2.8%; P<0.001) and lower 30-day all-cause mortality (10.1% vs. 12.5%; adjusted mortality difference: −2.5%, 95% CI, −3.6% to −1.4%; P<0.001). Differences in mortality also were observed at all time points, including at 1-day, 7-day, and 1-year follow-up. Moreover, the outcome differences were specific to stroke, as stroke centers and non-stroke centers had similar 30-day all-cause mortality rates among those with acute myocardial infarction (adjusted mortality difference: +0.3%, 95% CI, −0.5% to 1.0%; P=0.50) and/or gastrointestinal hemorrhage (adjusted mortality difference: +0.1%, 95% CI, −0.9% to 1.1%; P=0.83).
Conclusions
Admission to a designated stroke center for acute ischemic stroke was associated with more frequent use of thrombolytic therapy and lower mortality.
doi:10.1001/jama.2011.22
PMCID: PMC3290863  PMID: 21266684
quality improvement; outcome research; acute ischemic stroke
12.  Admissions for myocardial infarction and World Cup football: database survey 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2002;325(7378):1439-1442.
Objectives
To examine hospital admissions for a range of diagnoses on days surrounding England's 1998 World Cup football matches.
Design
Analysis of hospital admissions obtained from English hospital episode statistics.
Setting
England.
Participants
Population aged 15-64 years.
Main outcome measures
Ratio of number of admissions for acute myocardial infarction, stroke, deliberate self harm, and road traffic injuries on the day of and five days after England's World Cup matches, compared with admissions at the same time in previous and following years and in the month preceding the tournament.
Results
Risk of admission for acute myocardial infarction increased by 25% on 30 June 1998 (the day England lost to Argentina in a penalty shoot-out) and the following two days. No excess admissions occurred for other diagnoses or on the days of the other England matches. The effect was the same when only the two days after the match were treated as the exposed condition. Individual analyses of the day of and the two days after the Argentina match showed 55 extra admissions for myocardial infarctions compared with the number expected.
Conclusion
The increase in admissions suggests that myocardial infarction can be triggered by emotional upset, such as watching your football team lose an important match.
What is already known on this topicPhysical and emotional triggers, such as environmental disasters and vigorous physical exercise, can precipitate acute myocardial infarctionAn increase in cardiovascular mortality among Dutch men was associated with the 1996 European championship match between the Netherlands and FranceWhat this study addsAdmissions for myocardial infarction increased on the day England was eliminated from the 1998 World Cup by Argentina in a penalty shoot-out and on the two subsequent daysNo effect was seen on admissions for other diagnoses or after other matchesThese data support the hypothesis that intense emotional reactions can trigger myocardial infarction
PMCID: PMC139028  PMID: 12493655
13.  Place and Cause of Death in Centenarians: A Population-Based Observational Study in England, 2001 to 2010 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001653.
Catherine J. Evans and colleagues studied how many and where centenarians in England die, their causes of death, and how these measures have changed from 2001 to 2010.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Centenarians are a rapidly growing demographic group worldwide, yet their health and social care needs are seldom considered. This study aims to examine trends in place of death and associations for centenarians in England over 10 years to consider policy implications of extreme longevity.
Methods and Findings
This is a population-based observational study using death registration data linked with area-level indices of multiple deprivations for people aged ≥100 years who died 2001 to 2010 in England, compared with those dying at ages 80-99. We used linear regression to examine the time trends in number of deaths and place of death, and Poisson regression to evaluate factors associated with centenarians’ place of death. The cohort totalled 35,867 people with a median age at death of 101 years (range: 100–115 years). Centenarian deaths increased 56% (95% CI 53.8%–57.4%) in 10 years. Most died in a care home with (26.7%, 95% CI 26.3%–27.2%) or without nursing (34.5%, 95% CI 34.0%–35.0%) or in hospital (27.2%, 95% CI 26.7%–27.6%). The proportion of deaths in nursing homes decreased over 10 years (−0.36% annually, 95% CI −0.63% to −0.09%, p = 0.014), while hospital deaths changed little (0.25% annually, 95% CI −0.06% to 0.57%, p = 0.09). Dying with frailty was common with “old age” stated in 75.6% of death certifications. Centenarians were more likely to die of pneumonia (e.g., 17.7% [95% CI 17.3%–18.1%] versus 6.0% [5.9%–6.0%] for those aged 80–84 years) and old age/frailty (28.1% [27.6%–28.5%] versus 0.9% [0.9%–0.9%] for those aged 80–84 years) and less likely to die of cancer (4.4% [4.2%–4.6%] versus 24.5% [24.6%–25.4%] for those aged 80–84 years) and ischemic heart disease (8.6% [8.3%–8.9%] versus 19.0% [18.9%–19.0%] for those aged 80–84 years) than were younger elderly patients. More care home beds available per 1,000 population were associated with fewer deaths in hospital (PR 0.98, 95% CI 0.98–0.99, p<0.001).
Conclusions
Centenarians are more likely to have causes of death certified as pneumonia and frailty and less likely to have causes of death of cancer or ischemic heart disease, compared with younger elderly patients. To reduce reliance on hospital care at the end of life requires recognition of centenarians’ increased likelihood to “acute” decline, notably from pneumonia, and wider provision of anticipatory care to enable people to remain in their usual residence, and increasing care home bed capacity.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
Background
People who live to be more than 100 years old—centenarians—are congratulated and honored in many countries. In the UK, for example, the Queen sends a personal greeting to individuals on their 100th birthday. The number of UK residents who reach this notable milestone is increasing steadily, roughly doubling every 10 years. The latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures indicate that 13,350 centenarians were living in the UK in 2012 (20 centenarians per 100,000 people in the population) compared to only 7,740 in 2002. If current trends continue, by 2066 there may be more than half a million centenarians living in the UK. And similar increases in the numbers of centenarians are being seen in many other countries. The exact number of centenarians living worldwide is uncertain but is thought to be around 317,000 and is projected to rise to about 18 million by the end of this century.
Why Was This Study Done?
Traditional blessings often include the wish that the blessing’s recipient lives to be at least 100 years old. However, extreme longevity is associated with increasing frailty—declining physical function, increasing disability, and increasing vulnerability to a poor clinical outcome following, for example, an infection. Consequently, many centenarians require 24-hour per day care in a nursing home or a residential care home. Moreover, although elderly people, including centenarians, generally prefer to die in a home environment rather than a clinical environment, many centenarians end up dying in a hospital. To ensure that centenarians get their preferred end-of-life care, policy makers and clinicians need to know as much as possible about the health and social needs of this specific and unique group of elderly people. In this population-based observational study, the researchers examine trends in the place of death and factors associated with the place of death among centenarians in England over a 10-year period.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers extracted information about the place and cause of death of centenarians in England between 2001 and 2010 from the ONS death registration database, linked these data with area level information on deprivation and care-home bed capacity, and analyzed the data statistically. Over the 10-year study period, 35,867 centenarians (mainly women, average age 101 years) died in England. The annual number of centenarian deaths increased from 2,823 in 2001 to 4,393 in 2010. Overall, three-quarters of centenarian death certificates stated “old age” as the cause of death. About a quarter of centenarians died in the hospital, a quarter died in a nursing home, and a third died in a care home without nursing; only one in ten centenarians died at home. The proportion of deaths in a nursing home increased slightly over the study period but there was little change in the number of hospital deaths. Compared with younger age groups (80–84 year olds), centenarians were more likely to die from pneumonia and “old age” and less likely to die from cancer and heart disease. Among centenarians, dying in the hospital was more likely to be reported to be associated with pneumonia or heart disease than with dementia; death in the hospital was also associated with having four or more contributing causes of death and with living in a deprived area. Finally, living in an area with a higher care-home bed capacity was associated with a lower risk of dying in the hospital.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that many centenarians have outlived death from the chronic diseases that are the common causes of death among younger groups of elderly people and that dying in the hospital is often associated with pneumonia. Overall, these findings suggest that centenarians are a group of people living with a risk of death from increasing frailty that is exacerbated by acute lung infection. The accuracy of these findings is likely to be affected by the quality of UK death certification data. Although this is generally high, the strength of some of the reported associations may be affected, for example, by the tendency of clinicians to record the cause of death in the very elderly as “old age” to provide some comfort to surviving relatives. Importantly, however, these findings suggest that care-home capacity and the provision of anticipatory care should be increased in England (and possibly in other countries) to ensure that more of the growing number of centenarians can end their long lives outside hospital.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001653.
The US National Institute on Aging provides information about healthy aging, including information on longevity (in English and Spanish)
The National End of Life Care Intelligence Network, England is a government organization that gathers data on care provided to adults approaching the end of life to improve service quality and productivity
The Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance promotes universal access to affordable palliative care through the support of regional and national palliative care organizations
The non-for-profit organization AgeUK provides information about all aspects of aging
Wikipedia has a page on centenarians (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The International Longevity Centre-UK is an independent, non-partisan think tank dedicated to addressing issues of longevity, ageing and population; its “Living Beyond 100” report examines the research base on centenarians and calls for policy to reflect the ongoing UK increase in extreme longevity
This study is part of GUIDE_Care, a project initiated by the Cicely Saunders Institute to investigate patterns in place of death and the factors that affect these patterns
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001653
PMCID: PMC4043499  PMID: 24892645
14.  Primary Angioplasty for the Treatment of Acute ST-Segment Elevated Myocardial Infarction 
Executive Summary
One of the longest running debates in cardiology is about the best reperfusion therapy for patients with evolving acute myocardial infarction (MI). Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (ANGIOPLASTY) is a surgical treatment to reopen a blocked coronary artery to restore blood flow. It is a type of percutaneous (through-the-skin) coronary intervention (PCI) also known as balloon angioplasty. When performed on patients with acute myocardial infarction, it is called primary angioplasty. Primary angioplasty is an alternative to thrombolysis, clot-dissolving drug therapy, for patients with acute MI associated with ST-segment elevation (STEMI), a change recorded with an electrocardiogram (ECG) during chest pain.
This review of the clinical benefits and policy implications of primary angioplasty was requested by the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee and prompted by the recent publication of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in the New England Journal of Medicine (1) that compared referred primary angioplasty with on-site thrombolysis. The Medical Advisory Secretariat reviewed the literature comparing primary angioplasty with thrombolysis and other therapies (pre-hospital thrombolysis and facilitated angioplasty, the latter approach consisting of thrombolysis followed by primary angioplasty irrespective of response to thrombolysis) for acute STEMI.
There have been many RCTs and meta-analyses of these RCTs comparing primary angioplasty with thrombolysis and these were the subject of this analysis. Results showed a statistically significant reduction in mortality, reinfarction, and stroke for patients receiving primary angioplasty. Although the individual trials did not show significant improvements in mortality alone, they did show it for the outcomes of nonfatal reinfarction and stroke, and for an end point combining mortality, reinfarction, and stroke. However, researchers have raised concerns about these studies.
A main concern with the large RCTs is that they lack consistency in methods. Furthermore, there is some question as to their generalizability to practice in Ontario. Across the RCTs, there were differences in the type of thrombolytic drug, the use of stenting versus balloon-only angioplasty, and the use of the newer antiplatelet glycoprotein IIb/IIIa. The largest trial did not offer routine follow-up angioplasty for patients receiving thrombolysis, which is the practice in Ontario, and the meta-analysis included trials with streptokinase, an agent seldom used in hospitals in Ontario. Thus, the true magnitude of mortality benefit can only be surmised from head-to-head comparisons of current standard therapies for primary angioplasty and for thrombolysis.
By taking a more restrictive sample of the available studies, the Medical Advisory Secretariat conducted a review that was more consistent with patterns of practice in Ontario and selected trials that used accelerated alteplase as the thrombolytic agent.
Results from this meta-analysis suggest that the rates for primary angioplasty are significantly better for mortality, reinfarction, and stroke, in the short term (30 days), and for mortality, reinfarction, and the combined end point at 6 months. When primary angioplasty was compared with in-hospital thrombolysis, results showed a significant reduction in adverse event rates associated with primary angioplasty. However, 1 large RCT of pre-hospital thrombolysis (i.e., thrombolysis given by paramedics before arriving at the hospital) compared with primary angioplasty documented that pre-hospital thrombolysis is an equivalent intervention to primary thrombolysis in terms of survival. Furthermore, a meta-analysis of studies that compared pre-hospital thrombolysis with in-hospital thrombolysis showed a reduction in all hospital mortality rates in favour of pre-hospital thrombolysis, supporting the findings of the pre-hospital thrombolysis study. (2)
Clinical trials to date have reported that hospital stay is often reduced for patients who receive primary angioplasty compared with thrombolysis. Using a cost-analysis performed alongside the only study from Ontario, the Medical Advisory Secretariat concluded that there might be savings associated with primary angioplasty. These savings may partly offset the investment the provincial government would have to make to increase access to this technology. These savings should also be shown outside of a clinical trial protocol if the overall efficiencies of primary angioplasty are to be verified.
Based on this health technology policy analysis, the Medical Advisory Secretariat concludes that primary angioplasty has advantages with respect to mortality and combined end points compared with in-hospital thrombolysis (Level 1 evidence). However, pre-hospital thrombolysis improves survival compared with in-hospital thrombolysis (Level 1 evidence) and is equivalent to primary angioplasty (Level 1 evidence).
Results from the literature review raise concerns about the loss of therapeutic advantage due to treatment delays, time lapse from symptom onset to revascularization, time-of-day variations, the hospital volume of procedures, and the ability of hospitals to achieve in practice what RCTs have shown.
Furthermore, questions relevant to applying primary angioplasty widely, involve the diagnosis by paramedics, ambulance diversion protocols, paramedic training, and inter-hospital transfer protocols. These logistical considerations need to be addressed to realise the potential to improve patient outcomes. In its analysis, the Medical Advisory Secretariat concludes that it is unrealistic to reorganise the emergency medical services across Ontario to fully implement a primary angioplasty program.
Finally, it is important to evaluate the potential of this technology in the context of Ontario’s health system. This includes urban and rural considerations, the ability to expand access to primary angioplasty and to minimize symptom-to-assessment time through a diverse strategy including public awareness. Therefore, a measured, evaluative approach to adopting this technology is warranted.
Furthermore, the alternative approach to pre-hospital or early thrombolysis, especially within 120 minutes from onset of symptoms, should be considered when developing the approach to improving outcomes for acute MI. This could include efforts to decrease the symptom-to-thrombolysis time through strategies such as a concerted public education program to expedite presentation to emergency rooms after onset of symptoms, a pre-hospital ECG and thrombolysis checklist in ambulances to reduce door-to-needle time on arrival at emergency rooms, and, especially in remote areas, access to pre-hospital thrombolysis.
The Medical Advisory Secretariat therefore recommends that this analysis of primary angioplasty be viewed in the overall context of all interventions for the management of acute MI and, in particular, of improving access to primary angioplasty and maximising the use of early thrombolysis.
Outcomes for patients with acute MI can be improved if efforts are made to optimise the interval from symptom onset to thrombolysis or angioplasty. This will require concerted efforts, including public awareness through education to reduce the symptom-to-emergency room time, and maximising efficiencies in door-to-intervention times for primary angioplasty and for early thrombolysis.
Primary angioplasty and early thrombolysis cannot be considered in isolation from one another. For example, patients who have persistent STEMI 90 minutes after receiving thrombolysis should be considered for angioplasty (“rescue angioplasty”). Furthermore, for patients with acute MI who are in cardiac shock, primary angioplasty is considered the preferred intervention. The concomitant use of primary angioplasty and thrombolysis (“facilitated angioplasty”) is considered experimental and has no place in routine management of acute MI at this time. In remote parts of the province, consideration should be given to introducing pre-hospital thrombolysis as the preferred intervention through upgrading a select number of paramedics to advanced care status.
PMCID: PMC3387753  PMID: 23074449
15.  Association Between Ambulance Diversion And Survival Among Patients with Acute Myocardial Infarction 
Context
Ambulance diversion, a practice in which emergency departments (EDs) are temporarily closed to ambulance traffic, might be problematic for patients suffering from time-sensitive conditions. However, there is little empirical evidence to show whether diversion is associated with worse patient outcomes.
Objective
Analyze whether temporary ED closure on the day a patient suffers from acute myocardial infarction (AMI), as measured by ambulance diversion hours of the nearest ED, is associated with increased mortality rates among AMI patients.
Study Design and Main Outcome Measures
Data include 100% Medicare claims data that cover admissions between 2000 and 2005, linked with date of death until 2006, and daily ambulance diversion logs from four California counties between 2000 and 2006. We compared the percentage of AMI patients who die within 7, 30, up to 365 days of admission when their nearest ED is not on diversion and when that same ED is exposed to <6, 6-12, and ≥12 hours of diversion out of 24 hours on the day of admission. We control for underlying differences in patient population by estimating ED fixed-effects multivariate regression models that also include time-varying patient and hospital characteristics and seasonal trends adjustment.
Population Studied
The study included 13860 Medicare AMI patients from 508 zip codes whose admission date was within the relevant time period. Among the hospital universe, 149 EDs were identified as the nearest ED to these patients.
Results
Between 2000 and 2006, the mean daily diversion duration was 7.9 hours (SD=6.1 hours). Based on analysis of 11652 patients who were admitted to the ED between 2000 and 2005 and whose nearest ED had at least 3 diversion exposure levels (n=3541, 3357, 2667, and 2060 for no exposure, exposure to <6, 6-12, and ≥12 hours of diversion, respectively), there is no statistically significant differences, at the 5% level, in mortality rates between no diversion and exposure to diversion under 12 hours. Exposure to 12 or more hours of diversion is associated with higher 30-day mortality compared to no diversion status (actual mortality rate: 19% [n=392] vs. 15% [n=545]; regression adjusted difference: 3.24 percentage point [95% Confidence Interval, CI: 0.6-5.88]); higher 90-day mortality (26% [n=537] vs. 22% [n=762]; regression adjusted difference: 2.89 percentage point [CI: 0.13-5.64]); higher 9-month mortality (33% [n=680] vs. 28% [n=980]; regression adjusted difference: 2.93 percentage point [CI: 0.15, 5.71]); and higher 1-year mortality (35% [n=731] vs. 29% [n=1034]; regression adjusted difference: 3.04 percentage point [CI: 0.33-5.75]).
Conclusions
Among Medicare patients with acute MI in 4 populous California counties, exposure to at least 12 hours of diversion by the nearest ED was associated with increased 30-day, 90-day, 9-month, and 1-year mortality.
doi:10.1001/jama.2011.811
PMCID: PMC4109302  PMID: 21666277
16.  Long-Term Survival in a Large Cohort of Patients with Venous Thrombosis: Incidence and Predictors 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(1):e1001155.
Linda Flinterman and colleagues report on the long-term mortality rate for individuals who have experienced a first venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. They describe an ongoing elevated risk of death for individuals who had experienced a venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolism as compared to controls, for up to eight years after the event.
Background
Venous thrombosis is a common disease with a high mortality rate shortly after the event. However, details on long-term mortality in these patients are lacking. The aim of this study was to determine long-term mortality in a large cohort of patients with venous thrombosis.
Methods and Findings
4,947 patients from the Multiple Environmental and Genetic Assessment study of risk factors for venous thrombosis (MEGA study) with a first nonfatal venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolism and 6,154 control individuals without venous thrombosis, aged 18 to 70 years, were followed up for 8 years. Death and causes of death were retrieved from the Dutch death registration. Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated for patients compared with control individuals. Several subgroups were studied as well.
736 participants (601 patients and 135 controls) died over a follow-up of 54,948 person-years. The overall mortality rate was 22.7 per 1,000 person-years (95% CI 21.0–24.6) for patients and 4.7 per 1,000 person-years (95% CI 4.0–5.6) for controls. Patients with venous thrombosis had a 4.0-fold (95% CI 3.7–4.3) increased risk of death compared with controls. The risk remained increased up to 8 years after the thrombotic event, even when no additional comorbidities were present. The highest risk of death was found for patients with additional malignancies (SMR 5.5, 95% CI 5.0–6.1). Main causes of death were diseases of the circulatory system, venous thrombosis, and malignancies. Main limitation was a maximum age of 70 at time of inclusion for the first event. Therefore results can not be generalized to those in the highest age categories.
Conclusions
Patients who experienced a first venous thrombosis had an increased risk of death which lasted up to 8 years after the event, even when no comorbidities were present at time of thrombosis. Future long-term clinical follow-up could be beneficial in these patients.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The term venous thrombosis describes the clinical situation—more common during pregnancy, after surgery, or serious illness—in which a blood clot lodges in a vein. One specific type, which is more serious, involves the clot forming in a major vein in the lower leg and thigh and is termed a deep venous thrombosis. The clot can block blood flow and cause swelling and pain, but more seriously, can break off and move through the bloodstream, causing an embolism. An embolism can get stuck in the brain (and cause a stroke), lungs (and cause a pulmonary embolism), heart (to cause a heart attack), and/or other areas of the body, leading to severe damage.
Venous thrombosis is known to be associated with considerable short-term morbidity and mortality: the mortality rate after venous thrombosis is about 20% within one year and studies to date have suggested that the mortality rate is two to four times higher for patients with pulmonary embolism, of whom 10%–20% die within three months after the event. Many factors are associated with venous thrombosis, and the underlying cause of the thrombosis affects survival; for example, those with thrombotic events provoked by surgery or trauma have a lower mortality risk than patients with thrombosis caused by malignancy. Furthermore, about 10%–20% of patients who have had a venous thrombosis develop a recurrence within five years and up to 50% develop post-thrombotic syndrome—long-term swelling, pain, and changes in skin color.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is currently unknown whether the poor prognosis associated with venous thrombosis is limited to the months following the thrombotic event, or persists for years afterwards. So in this study, the researchers sought to answer this question by analyzing the long-term survival in a large cohort of patients who had experienced a first venous thrombosis and who were all followed for up to eight years.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the Multiple Environmental and Genetic Assessment of risk factors for venous thrombosis study (MEGA study), which was a case-control study involving 4,965 consecutive patients aged 18 to 70 years who were objectively diagnosed with a deep venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolism and recruited from six anticoagulation clinics in the Netherlands between March 1999 and September 2004. The control group consisted of partners of patients (n = 3,297) and a random control group matched on age and sex (n = 3,000). The researchers obtained causes of death from the Central Bureau of Statistics and for the observation period (30 days after the venous thrombosis, to either death or end of follow-up between February 2007 and May 2009) compared cause-specific death rates of the patients to those of the general Dutch population. The researchers devised specialist survival models (called Kaplan-Meier life-tables) and calculated standardized mortality ratios (SMRs—the ratio of the observed number of deaths over the number of deaths expected) to estimate relative rates of all cause mortality by type of the initial thrombosis and the underlying cause.
Using these methods, the researchers found that the overall mortality rate in patients with thrombosis was substantially greater than in the control group (22.7 per 1,000 person-years compared to 4.7 per 1,000 person-years). Apart from malignancies, the researchers found that the main causes of death were diseases of the circulatory and respiratory system. Patients with venous thrombosis and malignancy had the highest risk of mortality: 55% died during follow-up. Patients with venous thrombosis without malignancy had an overall 2-fold increased risk of mortality compared to the control group and this risk was comparable for patients with different forms of thrombosis (such as deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolus). According to the researchers' calculations, the relative risk of death was highest during the first three years after thrombosis, but for those with thrombosis of unknown cause, the risk of death increased by two-fold up to eight years after the thrombosis. Furthermore, the researchers found that the highly increased risk of death for those with pulmonary embolism is mainly only for the first month as long-term survival is similar to that of patients with a deep venous thrombosis.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that patients who have experienced a venous thrombosis for the first time have an increased risk of death, which may last up to eight years after the event. These findings have important clinical implications and suggest that long-term clinical follow-up could be beneficial in patients who have experienced a venous thrombosis for the first time.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001155.
Wikipedia provides information about venous thrombosis note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Medline has patient-friendly information about deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001155
PMCID: PMC3254666  PMID: 22253578
17.  Cholecystectomy in Sweden 2000 – 2003: a nationwide study on procedures, patient characteristics, and mortality 
BMC Gastroenterology  2007;7:35.
Background
Epidemiological data on characteristics of patients undergoing open or laparoscopic cholecystectomy are limited. In this register study we examined characteristics and mortality of patients who underwent cholecystectomy during hospital stay in Sweden 2000 – 2003.
Methods
Hospital discharge and death certificate data were linked for all patients undergoing cholecystectomy in Sweden from January 1st 2000 through December 31st 2003. Mortality risk was calculated as standardised mortality ratio (SMR) i.e. observed over expected deaths considering age and gender of the background population.
Results
During the four years of the study 43072 patients underwent cholecystectomy for benign biliary disease, 31144 (72%) using a laparoscopic technique and 11928 patients (28%) an open procedure (including conversion from laparoscopy). Patients with open cholecystectomy were older than patients with laparoscopic cholecystectomy (59 vs 49 years, p < 0.001), they were more likely to have been admitted to hospital during the year preceding cholecystectomy, and they had more frequently been admitted acutely for cholecystectomy (57% Vs 21%, p < 0.001). The proportion of women was lower in the open cholecystectomy group compared to the laparoscopic group (57% vs 73%, p < 0.001). Hospital stay was 7.9 (8.9) days, mean (SD), for patients with open cholecystectomy and 2.6 (3.3) days for patients with laparoscopic cholecystectomy, p < 0.001. SMR within 90 days of index admission was 3.89 (3.41–4.41) (mean and 95% CI), for patients with open cholecystectomy and 0.73 (0.52–1.01) for patients with laparoscopic cholecystectomy. During this period biliary disease accounted for one third of all deaths in both groups. From 91 to 365 days after index admission, SMR for patients in the open group was 1.01 (0.87–1.16) and for patients in the laparoscopic group 0.56 (0.44–0.69).
Conclusion
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is performed on patients having a lower mortality risk than the general Swedish population. Patients with open cholecystectomy are more sick than patients with laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and they have a mortality risk within 90 days of admission for cholecystectomy, which is four times that of the general population. Further efforts to reduce surgical trauma in open biliary surgery are motivated.
doi:10.1186/1471-230X-7-35
PMCID: PMC2040147  PMID: 17705871
18.  The dynamics of mortality in follow-up time after an acute myocardial infarction, lower extremity arterial disease and ischemic stroke 
Background
Most studies providing data on survival in patients with atherosclerosis only address a single disease site: heart, brain or legs. Therefore, our objective was to determine risk of death after first hospital admission for atherosclerotic disease located at different sites.
Methods
A nationwide cohort of patients hospitalized for the first time for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), peripheral arterial disease of the lower extremities (PAD) or ischemic stroke was identified through linkage of national registers. The mortality rate in AMI patients was compared to mortality rate in ischemic stroke and PAD patients by estimating relative risks (with 95%CI). Cox's proportional hazard models were used to estimate sex differences in risk of death.
Results
Case fatality was high for ischemic stroke patients (men:21.0%, women:23.8%) and AMI patients (men:12.7%, women:20.9%) though low for PAD patients (men:2.4%, women:3.5%). The five-year risk of death was similar for male AMI compared to PAD patients (men: RR1.04; 95%CI 0.98-1.11). The risk of death for ischemic stroke patients remained the highest though the differences with AMI and PAD patients attenuated.
Conclusions
The dynamics of mortality over follow-up time clearly differ between atherosclerotic diseases, located at different vascular beds. The risk of death increases considerably over follow-up time for PAD patients, and 5 years after first hospital admission the differences in risks of death between AMI- and PAD patients and between AMI- and ischemic stroke patients have largely attenuated. Clinicians should be aware of these dynamics of mortality over follow-up time to provide optimal secondary prevention treatment.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-10-57
PMCID: PMC3003625  PMID: 21106115
19.  Children with Severe Malnutrition: Can Those at Highest Risk of Death Be Identified with the WHO Protocol? 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e500.
Background
With strict adherence to international recommended treatment guidelines, the case fatality for severe malnutrition ought to be less than 5%. In African hospitals, fatality rates of 20% are common and are often attributed to poor training and faulty case management. Improving outcome will depend upon the identification of those at greatest risk and targeting limited health resources. We retrospectively examined the major risk factors associated with early (<48 h) and late in-hospital death in children with severe malnutrition with the aim of identifying admission features that could distinguish a high-risk group in relation to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
Methods and Findings
Of 920 children in the study, 176 (19%) died, with 59 (33%) deaths occurring within 48 h of admission. Bacteraemia complicated 27% of all deaths: 52% died before 48 h despite 85% in vitro antibiotic susceptibility of cultured organisms. The sensitivity, specificity, and likelihood ratio of the WHO-recommended “danger signs” (lethargy, hypothermia, or hypoglycaemia) to predict early mortality was 52%, 84%, and 3.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.2 to 5.1), respectively. In addition, four bedside features were associated with early case fatality: bradycardia, capillary refill time greater than 2 s, weak pulse volume, and impaired consciousness level; the presence of two or more features was associated with an odds ratio of 9.6 (95% CI = 4.8 to 19) for early fatality (p < 0.0001). Conversely, the group of children without any of these seven features, or signs of dehydration, severe acidosis, or electrolyte derangements, had a low fatality (7%).
Conclusions
Formal assessment of these features as emergency signs to improve triage and to rationalize manpower resources toward the high-risk groups is required. In addition, basic clinical research is necessary to identify and test appropriate supportive treatments.
A retrospective examination of major risk factors associated with in-hospital deaths in children with severe malnutrition has identified admission features that could help distinguish those at highest risk.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Severe malnutrition is thought to be responsible, at least in part, for a large proportion of the many millions of deaths every year among children below the age of five years. The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed guidelines for management of the severely malnourished child in the hospital. These guidelines outline ten initial steps for routine care, followed by treatment of associated conditions and rehabilitation. However, death rates among children admitted to hospital with severe malnutrition are worryingly high, commonly 20% or sometimes even higher. Many hospitals have reported that following introduction of the WHO guidelines, the death rates have been cut, but not to a level that the WHO defines as acceptable (5% or lower).
Why Was This Study Done?
In the region where this study was done, an area on the coast of Kenya, East Africa, malnutrition is very common. The local hospital, Kilifi District Hospital, currently reports a death rate of approximately 19% among children admitted with severe malnutrition, even with implementation of the WHO guidelines. A group of researchers based at the hospital wanted to see if they could identify those children who were most likely to die. Their aim was to see which aspects of the children's medical condition put them at highest risk. This information would be useful in ensuring that high-risk children received the most appropriate care.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers studied all severely malnourished children over three months of age who were admitted to the Kilifi District Hospital between September 2000 and June 2002. The children were treated according to the WHO guidelines, and the research group collected data on the condition of the children after treatment (their “outcomes”), as well as for relevant clinical signs and symptoms. The study involved 920 children, of whom 176 died in hospital (a death rate of 19%). They then examined the data to see which characteristics on admission were associated with early death (less than 48 h) and later deaths. They found that four clinical features, which could be easily ascertained at the bedside on admission, were associated with a large proportion of the early deaths. These four signs were slow heart rate, weak pulse volume, depressed consciousness level, and a delayed capillary refilling time (as tested by pressing a fingernail bed to blanche the finger, releasing it, and observing the time taken to reperfuse the capillaries—or recolor the nailbed). The researchers proposed that these findings, together with a number of other features that were associated with the later deaths could be used to identify three groups of patients differing in their need for emergency care: a high-risk group (with any of the four signs listed above, or hypoglycemia, and among whom mortality was 34%); a moderate-risk group (among whom mortality was 23%); and a low-risk group (mortality 7%).
What Do These Findings Mean?
First, the death rate amongst these children was very high even though WHO guidelines were used to guide management. The signs reported here as indicators of poor outcome may prove useful in future in identifying high-risk individuals to ensure they receive the right treatment. However, the indicators proposed here would need further evaluation before current guidelines for treatment of the severely malnourished child could be changed.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030500.
• Information on severe malnutrition is available from the World Health Organization
• Management guidelines from the WHO can also be downloaded in many languages
• UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, provides relevant resources and statistics as well as information about its programs addressing malnutrition worldwide
• Information from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on acute malnutrition worldwide and MSF's response to current emergencies
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030500
PMCID: PMC1716191  PMID: 17194194
20.  Readmissions after Hospitalization for Heart Failure, Acute Myocardial Infarction, or Pneumonia among Young and Middle-Aged Adults: A Retrospective Observational Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001737.
Isuru Ranasinghe and colleagues compare readmissions after hospitalization for heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, or pneumonia in adults aged 18 to 64 years with readmissions in those aged 65 and older.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Patients aged ≥65 years are vulnerable to readmissions due to a transient period of generalized risk after hospitalization. However, whether young and middle-aged adults share a similar risk pattern is uncertain. We compared the rate, timing, and readmission diagnoses following hospitalization for heart failure (HF), acute myocardial infarction (AMI), and pneumonia among patients aged 18–64 years with patients aged ≥65 years.
Methods and Findings
We used an all-payer administrative dataset from California consisting of all hospitalizations for HF (n = 206,141), AMI (n = 107,256), and pneumonia (n = 199,620) from 2007–2009. The primary outcomes were unplanned 30-day readmission rate, timing of readmission, and readmission diagnoses. Our findings show that the readmission rate among patients aged 18–64 years exceeded the readmission rate in patients aged ≥65 years in the HF cohort (23.4% vs. 22.0%, p<0.001), but was lower in the AMI (11.2% vs. 17.5%, p<0.001) and pneumonia (14.4% vs. 17.3%, p<0.001) cohorts. When adjusted for sex, race, comorbidities, and payer status, the 30-day readmission risk in patients aged 18–64 years was similar to patients ≥65 years in the HF (HR 0.99; 95%CI 0.97–1.02) and pneumonia (HR 0.97; 95%CI 0.94–1.01) cohorts and was marginally lower in the AMI cohort (HR 0.92; 95%CI 0.87–0.96). For all cohorts, the timing of readmission was similar; readmission risks were highest between days 2 and 5 and declined thereafter across all age groups. Diagnoses other than the index admission diagnosis accounted for a substantial proportion of readmissions among age groups <65 years; a non-cardiac diagnosis represented 39–44% of readmissions in the HF cohort and 37–45% of readmissions in the AMI cohort, while a non-pulmonary diagnosis represented 61–64% of patients in the pneumonia cohort.
Conclusion
When adjusted for differences in patient characteristics, young and middle-aged adults have 30-day readmission rates that are similar to elderly patients for HF, AMI, and pneumonia. A generalized risk after hospitalization is present regardless of age.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Many elderly people who are admitted to hospital, successfully treated, and discharged are readmitted soon after, often for an unrelated illness. In the US, for example, nearly a fifth of Medicare beneficiaries are readmitted to hospital within 30 days of discharge (Medicare is a national insurance program that primarily pays for health care services for Americans aged 65 and older). Experts have recently coined the term “post-hospital syndrome” for the transient period of increased susceptibility to a range of adverse health events that elderly patients seem to experience and have suggested that exposure to stress during hospital stays may underlie the syndrome. For example, hospital patients frequently have their sleep disrupted because of hospital routines, they are often in pain, they may have insufficient food intake (sometimes because they are waiting for an operation), and they may lose physical conditioning because they are confined to bed. These and other stressors can reduce individuals' natural reserves and increase their vulnerability to a range of illnesses and conditions.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although stress is one possible determinant of the post-hospital syndrome, the underlying causes and patterns of hospital readmission are generally poorly understood. In particular, it is not known whether the post-hospital syndrome affects young and middle-aged patients as well as elderly patients. Importantly, a better understanding of the post-hospital syndrome is needed before effective strategies to reduce hospital readmissions can be developed. In this retrospective observational cohort study, the researchers compare readmission rates, timing, and diagnoses after hospitalization for heart failure (HF), acute myocardial infarction (AMI; heart attack), and pneumonia among patients aged 18–64 years living in California with readmission rates, timing, and diagnoses among patients aged 65 years or older hospitalized for the same conditions. A retrospective observational cohort study analyzes data that has been already been collected for a group (cohort) of people. Readmission is common among people of all ages who are admitted to hospital for HF, AMI, and pneumonia, and readmissions after hospitalization for these conditions among elderly Medicare patients are used in the US as a measure of hospital quality; hospitals with high readmission rates are subject to a Medicare reimbursement penalty.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project inpatient dataset for California to identify all the hospitalizations for HF, AMI, and pneumonia in California in 2007–2009 and to obtain data on the 30-day unplanned rehospitalization rate, timing of readmission, and readmission diagnoses for the identified patients (more than half a million patients). Nearly 30% of all hospital readmissions after hospitalization for HF, AMI, and pneumonia in California occurred among patients aged 18–64. After hospitalization for AMI, pneumonia, and HF, 11.2%, 14.4%, and 23.4%, respectively, of young and middle-aged patients were readmitted. Notably, the 30-day readmission rate among patients aged 18–64 admitted for HF exceeded the readmission rate among elderly patients admitted for the same condition. After allowing for other factors likely to affect the risk of readmission such as other illnesses, the 30-day readmission risk in patients aged 18–64 was similar to that in patients aged 65 years or older admitted for HF and pneumonia and only marginally lower among patients admitted for AMI. Finally, the timing of readmission was similar in both age groups and diagnoses other than the index admission diagnosis accounted for a substantial proportion of readmissions in both age groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study shows that after adjusting for differences in patient characteristics, the 30-day hospital readmission rates among young and middle-aged patients after hospitalization for HF, AMI, and pneumonia were similar to those among elderly patients. Moreover, the timing of readmission and the reasons for readmission among young and middle-aged patients were similar to those among elderly patients. These findings may not apply to other US states or to other countries and may not reflect the pattern of hospital readmissions following conditions other than HF, AMI, and pneumonia. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the post-hospital syndrome affects young and middle-aged as well as elderly patients. Hospital readmission should therefore be considered as a potential problem for people of all ages and broad-based, multidisciplinary strategies that target patients of all ages should be developed to mitigate the risk of hospital readmissions.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001737.
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement provides information about reducing avoidable hospital readmissions
Information about the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services readmissions reduction program is available
An article written by one of the study authors about the post-hospital syndrome is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001737
PMCID: PMC4181962  PMID: 25268126
21.  Survival trends in critically ill HIV-infected patients in the highly active antiretroviral therapy era 
Critical Care  2010;14(3):R107.
Introduction
The widespread use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (ART) has reduced HIV-related life-threatening infectious complications. Our objective was to assess whether highly active ART was associated with improved survival in critically ill HIV-infected patients.
Methods
A retrospective study from 1996 to 2005 was performed in a medical intensive care unit (ICU) in a university hospital specialized in the management of immunocompromised patients. A total of 284 critically ill HIV-infected patients were included. Differences were sought across four time periods. Risk factors for death were identified by multivariable logistic regression.
Results
Among the 233 (82%) patients with known HIV infection before ICU admission, 64% were on highly active ART. Annual admissions increased over time, with no differences in reasons for admission: proportions of patients with newly diagnosed HIV, previous opportunistic infection, CD4 counts, viral load, or acute disease severity. ICU and 90-day mortality rates decreased steadily: 25% and 37.5% in 1996 to 1997, 17.1% and 17.1% in 1998 to 2000, 13.2% and 13.2% in 2001 to 2003, and 8.6% in 2004 to 2005. Five factors were independently associated with increased ICU mortality: delayed ICU admission (odds ratio (OR), 3.04; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.29 to 7.17), acute renal failure (OR, 4.21; 95% CI, 1.63 to 10.92), hepatic cirrhosis (OR, 3.78; 95% CI, 1.21 to 11.84), ICU admission for coma (OR, 2.73; 95% CI, 1.16 to 6.46), and severe sepsis (OR, 3.67; 95% CI, 1.53 to 8.80). Admission to the ICU in the most recent period was independently associated with increased survival: admission from 2001 to 2003 (OR, 0.28; 95% CI, 0.08 to 0.99), and between 2004 and 2005 (OR, 0.13; 95% CI, 0.03 to 0.53).
Conclusions
ICU survival increased significantly in the highly active ART era, although disease severity remained unchanged. Co-morbidities and organ dysfunctions, but not HIV-related variables, were associated with death. Earlier ICU admission from the hospital ward might improve survival.
doi:10.1186/cc9056
PMCID: PMC2911753  PMID: 20534139
22.  Erectile Dysfunction Severity as a Risk Marker for Cardiovascular Disease Hospitalisation and All-Cause Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(1):e1001372.
In a prospective Australian population-based study linking questionnaire data from 2006–2009 with hospitalisation and death data to June 2010 for 95,038 men aged ≥45 years, Banks and colleagues found that more severe erectile dysfunction was associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Background
Erectile dysfunction is an emerging risk marker for future cardiovascular disease (CVD) events; however, evidence on dose response and specific CVD outcomes is limited. This study investigates the relationship between severity of erectile dysfunction and specific CVD outcomes.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a prospective population-based Australian study (the 45 and Up Study) linking questionnaire data from 2006–2009 with hospitalisation and death data to 30 June and 31 Dec 2010 respectively for 95,038 men aged ≥45 y. Cox proportional hazards models were used to examine the relationship of reported severity of erectile dysfunction to all-cause mortality and first CVD-related hospitalisation since baseline in men with and without previous CVD, adjusting for age, smoking, alcohol consumption, marital status, income, education, physical activity, body mass index, diabetes, and hypertension and/or hypercholesterolaemia treatment. There were 7,855 incident admissions for CVD and 2,304 deaths during follow-up (mean time from recruitment, 2.2 y for CVD admission and 2.8 y for mortality). Risks of CVD and death increased steadily with severity of erectile dysfunction. Among men without previous CVD, those with severe versus no erectile dysfunction had significantly increased risks of ischaemic heart disease (adjusted relative risk [RR] = 1.60, 95% CI 1.31–1.95), heart failure (8.00, 2.64–24.2), peripheral vascular disease (1.92, 1.12–3.29), “other” CVD (1.26, 1.05–1.51), all CVD combined (1.35, 1.19–1.53), and all-cause mortality (1.93, 1.52–2.44). For men with previous CVD, corresponding RRs (95% CI) were 1.70 (1.46–1.98), 4.40 (2.64–7.33), 2.46 (1.63–3.70), 1.40 (1.21–1.63), 1.64 (1.48–1.81), and 2.37 (1.87–3.01), respectively. Among men without previous CVD, RRs of more specific CVDs increased significantly with severe versus no erectile dysfunction, including acute myocardial infarction (1.66, 1.22–2.26), atrioventricular and left bundle branch block (6.62, 1.86–23.56), and (peripheral) atherosclerosis (2.47, 1.18–5.15), with no significant difference in risk for conditions such as primary hypertension (0.61, 0.16–2.35) and intracerebral haemorrhage (0.78, 0.20–2.97).
Conclusions
These findings give support for CVD risk assessment in men with erectile dysfunction who have not already undergone assessment. The utility of erectile dysfunction as a clinical risk prediction tool requires specific testing.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Erectile dysfunction is the medical term used when a man is unable to achieve or sustain an erection of his penis suitable for sexual intercourse. Although a sensitive topic that can cause much embarrassment and distress, erectile dysfunction is very common, with an estimated 40% of men over the age of 40 years experiencing frequent or occasional difficulties. The most common causes of erectile dysfunction are medications, chronic illnesses such as diabetes, and drinking too much alcohol. Stress and mental health problems can also cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. There is also increasing evidence that erectile dysfunction may actually be a symptom of cardiovascular disease—a leading cause of death worldwide—as erectile dysfunction could indicate a problem with blood vessels or poor blood flow commonly associated with cardiovascular disease.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although previous studies have suggested that erectile dysfunction can serve as a marker for cardiovascular disease in men not previously diagnosed with the condition, few studies to date have investigated whether erectile dysfunction could also indicate worsening disease in men already diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. In addition, previous studies have typically been small and have not graded the severity of erectile dysfunction or investigated the specific types of cardiovascular disease associated with erectile dysfunction. In this large study conducted in Australia, the researchers investigated the relationship of the severity of erectile dysfunction with a range of cardiovascular disease outcomes among men with and without a previous diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used information from the established 45 and Up Study, a large cohort study that includes 123,775 men aged 45 and over, selected at random from the general population of New South Wales, a large region of Australia. A total of 95,038 men were included in this analysis. The male participants completed a postal questionnaire that included a question on erectile functioning, which allowed the researchers to define erectile dysfunction as none, mild, moderate, or severe. Using information captured in the New South Wales Admitted Patient Data Collection—a complete record of all public and private hospital admissions, including the reasons for admission and the clinical diagnosis—and the government death register, the researchers were able to determine health outcomes of all study participants. They then used a statistical model to estimate hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease events for different levels of erectile dysfunction.
The researchers found that the rates of severe erectile dysfunction among study participants were 2.2% for men aged 45–54 years, 6.8% for men aged 55–64 years, 20.2% for men aged 65–74 years, 50.0% for men aged 75–84 years, and 75.4% for men aged 85 years and over. During the study period, the researchers recorded 7,855 hospital admissions related to cardiovascular disease and 2,304 deaths. The researchers found that among men without previous cardiovascular disease, those with severe erectile dysfunction were more likely to develop ischemic heart disease (risk 1.60), heart failure (risk 8.00), peripheral vascular disease (risk 1.92), and other causes of cardiovascular disease (risk 1.26) than men without erectile dysfunction. The risks of heart attacks and heart conduction problems were also increased (1.66 and 6.62, respectively). Furthermore, the combined risk of all cardiovascular disease outcomes was 1.35, and the overall risk of death was also higher (risk 1.93) in these men. The researchers found that these increased risks were similar in men with erectile dysfunction who had previously been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that compared to men without erectile dysfunction, there is an increasing risk of ischemic heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and death from all causes in those with increasing degrees of severity of erectile dysfunction. The authors emphasize that erectile dysfunction is a risk marker for cardiovascular disease, not a risk factor that causes cardiovascular disease. These findings add to previous studies and highlight the need to consider erectile dysfunction in relation to the risk of different types of cardiovascular disease, including heart failure and heart conduction disorders. However, the study's reliance on the answer to a single self-assessed question on erectile functioning limits the findings. Nevertheless, these findings provide useful information for clinicians: men with erectile dysfunction are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and the worse the erectile dysfunction, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease. Men with erectile dysfunction, even at mild or moderate levels, should be screened and treated for cardiovascular disease accordingly.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001372.
Wikipedia defines erectile dysfunction (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
MedlinePlus also has some useful patient information on erectile dysfunction
The Mayo Clinic has patient-friendly information on the causes of, and treatments for, erectile dysfunction, and also includes information on the link with cardiovascular disease
The National Heart Foundation of Australia provides information for health professionals, patients, and the general public about how to prevent and manage cardiovascular disease, including assessment and management of cardiovascular disease risk
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001372
PMCID: PMC3558249  PMID: 23382654
23.  Completeness and diagnostic validity of recording acute myocardial infarction events in primary care, hospital care, disease registry, and national mortality records: cohort study 
Objective To determine the completeness and diagnostic validity of myocardial infarction recording across four national health record sources in primary care, hospital care, a disease registry, and mortality register.
Design Cohort study.
Participants 21 482 patients with acute myocardial infarction in England between January 2003 and March 2009, identified in four prospectively collected, linked electronic health record sources: Clinical Practice Research Datalink (primary care data), Hospital Episode Statistics (hospital admissions), the disease registry MINAP (Myocardial Ischaemia National Audit Project), and the Office for National Statistics mortality register (cause specific mortality data).
Setting One country (England) with one health system (the National Health Service).
Main outcome measures Recording of acute myocardial infarction, incidence, all cause mortality within one year of acute myocardial infarction, and diagnostic validity of acute myocardial infarction compared with electrocardiographic and troponin findings in the disease registry (gold standard).
Results Risk factors and non-cardiovascular coexisting conditions were similar across patients identified in primary care, hospital admission, and registry sources. Immediate all cause mortality was highest among patients with acute myocardial infarction recorded in primary care, which (unlike hospital admission and disease registry sources) included patients who did not reach hospital, but at one year mortality rates in cohorts from each source were similar. 5561 (31.0%) patients with non-fatal acute myocardial infarction were recorded in all three sources and 11 482 (63.9%) in at least two sources. The crude incidence of acute myocardial infarction was underestimated by 25-50% using one source compared with using all three sources. Compared with acute myocardial infarction defined in the disease registry, the positive predictive value of acute myocardial infarction recorded in primary care was 92.2% (95% confidence interval 91.6% to 92.8%) and in hospital admissions was 91.5% (90.8% to 92.1%).
Conclusion Each data source missed a substantial proportion (25-50%) of myocardial infarction events. Failure to use linked electronic health records from primary care, hospital care, disease registry, and death certificates may lead to biased estimates of the incidence and outcome of myocardial infarction.
Trial registration NCT01569139 clinicaltrials.gov.
doi:10.1136/bmj.f2350
PMCID: PMC3898411  PMID: 23692896
24.  Developing a summary hospital mortality index: retrospective analysis in English hospitals over five years 
Objectives To develop a transparent and reproducible measure for hospitals that can indicate when deaths in hospital or within 30 days of discharge are high relative to other hospitals, given the characteristics of the patients in that hospital, and to investigate those factors that have the greatest effect in changing the rank of a hospital, whether interactions exist between those factors, and the stability of the measure over time.
Design Retrospective cross sectional study of admissions to English hospitals.
Setting Hospital episode statistics for England from 1 April 2005 to 30 September 2010, with linked mortality data from the Office for National Statistics.
Participants 36.5 million completed hospital admissions in 146 general and 72 specialist trusts.
Main outcome measures Deaths within hospital or within 30 days of discharge from hospital.
Results The predictors that were used in the final model comprised admission diagnosis, age, sex, type of admission, and comorbidity. The percentage of people admitted who died in hospital or within 30 days of discharge was 4.2% for males and 4.5% for females. Emergency admissions comprised 75% of all admissions and 5.5% died, in contrast to 0.8% who died after an elective admission. The percentage who died with a Charlson comorbidity score of 0 was 2% in contrast with 15% who died with a score greater than 5. Given these variables, the relative standardised mortality rates of the hospitals were not noticeably changed by adjusting for the area level deprivation and number of previous emergency visits to hospital. There was little evidence that including interaction terms changed the relative values by any great amount. Using these predictors the summary hospital mortality index (SHMI) was derived. For 2007/8 the model had a C statistic of 0.911 and accounted for 81% of the variability of between hospital mortality. A random effects funnel plot was used to identify outlying hospitals. The outliers from the SHMI over the period 2005-10 have previously been identified using other mortality indicators.
Conclusion The SHMI is a relatively simple tool that can be used in conjunction with other information to identify hospitals that may need further investigation.
doi:10.1136/bmj.e1001
PMCID: PMC3291118  PMID: 22381521
25.  Regional Changes in Charcoal-Burning Suicide Rates in East/Southeast Asia from 1995 to 2011: A Time Trend Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(4):e1001622.
Using a time trend analysis, Ying-Yeh Chen and colleagues examine the evidence for regional increases in charcoal-burning suicide rates in East and Southeast Asia from 1995 to 2011.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Suicides by carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from burning barbecue charcoal reached epidemic levels in Hong Kong and Taiwan within 5 y of the first reported cases in the early 2000s. The objectives of this analysis were to investigate (i) time trends and regional patterns of charcoal-burning suicide throughout East/Southeast Asia during the time period 1995–2011 and (ii) whether any rises in use of this method were associated with increases in overall suicide rates. Sex- and age-specific trends over time were also examined to identify the demographic groups showing the greatest increases in charcoal-burning suicide rates across different countries.
Methods and Findings
We used data on suicides by gases other than domestic gas for Hong Kong, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore in the years 1995/1996–2011. Similar data for Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand were also extracted but were incomplete. Graphical and joinpoint regression analyses were used to examine time trends in suicide, and negative binomial regression analysis to study sex- and age-specific patterns. In 1995/1996, charcoal-burning suicides accounted for <1% of all suicides in all study countries, except in Japan (5%), but they increased to account for 13%, 24%, 10%, 7%, and 5% of all suicides in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore, respectively, in 2011. Rises were first seen in Hong Kong after 1998 (95% CI 1997–1999), followed by Singapore in 1999 (95% CI 1998–2001), Taiwan in 2000 (95% CI 1999–2001), Japan in 2002 (95% CI 1999–2003), and the Republic of Korea in 2007 (95% CI 2006–2008). No marked increases were seen in Malaysia, the Philippines, or Thailand. There was some evidence that charcoal-burning suicides were associated with an increase in overall suicide rates in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan (for females), but not in Japan (for males), the Republic of Korea, and Singapore. Rates of change in charcoal-burning suicide rate did not differ by sex/age group in Taiwan and Hong Kong but appeared to be greatest in people aged 15–24 y in Japan and people aged 25–64 y in the Republic of Korea. The lack of specific codes for charcoal-burning suicide in the International Classification of Diseases and variations in coding practice in different countries are potential limitations of this study.
Conclusions
Charcoal-burning suicides increased markedly in some East/Southeast Asian countries (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore) in the first decade of the 21st century, but such rises were not experienced by all countries in the region. In countries with a rise in charcoal-burning suicide rates, the timing, scale, and sex/age pattern of increases varied by country. Factors underlying these variations require further investigation, but may include differences in culture or in media portrayals of the method.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, almost one million people die by suicide globally; suicide is the fifth leading cause of death in women aged 15–49 and the sixth leading cause of death in men in the same age group. Most people who take their own life are mentally ill. For others, stressful events (the loss of a partner, for example) have made life seem worthless or too painful to bear. Strategies to reduce suicide rates include better treatment of mental illness and programs that help people at high risk of suicide deal with stress. Suicide rates can also be reduced by limiting access to common suicide methods. These methods vary from place to place. Hanging is the predominant suicide method in many countries, but in Hong Kong, for example, jumping from a high building is the most common method. Suicide methods also vary over time. For example, after a woman in Hong Kong took her life in 1998 by burning barbecue charcoal in a sealed room (a process that produces the toxic gas carbon monoxide), charcoal burning rapidly went from being a rare method of killing oneself in Hong Kong to the second most common suicide method.
Why Was This Study Done?
Cases of charcoal-burning suicide have also been reported in several East and Southeast Asian countries, but there has been no systematic investigation of time trends and regional patterns of this form of suicide. A better understanding of regional changes in the number of charcoal-burning suicides might help to inform efforts to prevent the emergence of other new suicide methods. Here, the researchers investigate the time trends and regional patterns of charcoal-burning suicide in several countries in East and Southeast Asia between 1995 and 2011 and ask whether any rises in the use of this method are associated with increases in overall suicide rates. The researchers also investigate sex- and age-specific time trends in charcoal-burning suicides to identify which groups of people show the greatest increases in this form of suicide across different countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed method-specific data on suicide deaths for Hong Kong, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore between 1995/1996 and 2011 obtained from the World Health Organization Mortality Database and from national death registers. In 1995/1996, charcoal-burning suicides accounted for less than 1% of all suicides in all these countries except Japan (4.9%). By 2011, charcoal-burning suicides accounted for between 5% (Singapore) and 24% (Taiwan) of all suicides. Rises in the rate of charcoal-burning suicide were first seen in Hong Kong in 1999, in Singapore in 2000, in Taiwan in 2001, in Japan in 2003, and in the Republic of Korea in 2008. By contrast, incomplete data from Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand showed no evidence of a marked increase in charcoal-burning suicide in these countries over the same period. Charcoal-burning suicides were associated with an increase in overall suicide rates in Hong Kong in 1998–2003, in Taiwan in 2000–2006, and in Japanese women after 2003. Finally, the annual rate of change in charcoal-burning suicide rate did not differ by sex/age group in Taiwan and Hong Kong, whereas in Japan people aged 15–24 and in the Republic of Korea people aged 25–64 tended to have the greatest rates of increase.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that charcoal-burning suicides increased markedly in several but not all East and Southeast Asian countries during the first decade of the 21st century. Moreover, in countries where there was an increase, the timing, scale, and sex/age pattern of the increase varied by country. The accuracy of these findings is likely to be limited by several aspects of the study. For example, because of the way that method-specific suicides are recorded in the World Health Organization Mortality Database and national death registries, the researchers may have slightly overestimated the number of charcoal-burning suicides. Further studies are now needed to identify the factors that underlie the variations between countries in charcoal-burning suicide rates and time trends reported here. However, the current findings highlight the need to undertake surveillance to identify the emergence of new suicide methods and the importance of policy makers, the media, and internet service providers working together to restrict graphic and detailed descriptions of new suicide methods.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001622.
A PLOS Medicine research article by Shu-Sen Chang and colleagues investigates time trends and regional patterns of charcoal-burning suicide in Taiwan
The World Health Organization provides information on the global burden of suicide and on suicide prevention (in several languages); it also has an article on international patterns in methods of suicide
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on suicide and suicide prevention
The UK National Health Service Choices website has detailed information about suicide and its prevention
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about suicide (in English and Spanish)
The International Association for Suicide Prevention provides links to crisis centers in Asia
The charity Healthtalkonline has personal stories about dealing with suicide
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001622
PMCID: PMC3972087  PMID: 24691071

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