Unplanned admissions for heart failure are common and some are considered preventable.
Objective Undertake a systematic literature review and meta-analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of specialist clinics in reducing unplanned hospital admissions in people with heart failure.
Data sources 18 databases were searched from inception to June 2010. Relevant websites and reference lists of included studies were checked for additional publications.
Study selection Randomised controlled trials in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries that evaluated the effectiveness of specialist clinic interventions for heart failure compared with usual care, where unplanned heart failure admissions or readmissions were an outcome.
Data extraction Data were extracted by one reviewer and checked by a second reviewer.
Results 10 of 17 randomised controlled trials met the inclusion criteria. Specialist clinics showed a reduction in unplanned admissions at 12 months (pooled risk ratio (RR) for five studies 0.51 (95% CI 0.33 to 0.76); absolute risk reduction 16 per 100 (95% CI 12 to 20)). Studies with initial frequent (weekly/fortnightly) appointments reducing in frequency over the study duration demonstrated a 58% RR reduction in unplanned admissions (pooled RR for three studies 0.42 (95% CI 0.27 to 0.65); absolute risk reduction 14 per 100 (95% CI 7 to 20)). Clinics conducted on a monthly or 3 monthly basis throughout or tailored to the individual patients did not show an effect.
Conclusions Specialist clinics for patients with heart failure can reduce the risk of unplanned admissions; these were most effective when there was a high intensity of clinic appointments close to the time of discharge which then reduced over the follow-up period.
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