Acute Heart Failure in the Emergency Department: the SAFE-SIMEU Epidemiological Study

Andrea Fabbri, Giulio Marchesini, Giorgio Carbone, Roberto Cosentini, Annamaria Ferrari, Mauro Chiesa, Alessio Bertini, Federico Rea, Italian Society of Emergency Medicine (SIMEU)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Patients with acute heart failure (AHF) have high rates of attendance to emergency departments (EDs), with significant health care costs. Objectives We aimed to describe the clinical characteristics of patients attending Italian EDs for AHF and their diagnostic and therapeutic work-up. Methods We carried out a retrospective analysis on 2683 cases observed in six Italian EDs for AHF (January 2011 to June 2012). Results The median age of patients was 84 years (interquartile range 12), with females accounting for 55.8% of cases (95% confidence interval [CI] 53.5–57.6%). A first episode of AHF was recorded in 55.3% (95% CI 55.4–57.2%). Respiratory disease was the main precipitating factor (approximately 30% of cases), and multiple comorbidities were recorded in > 50% of cases (history of acute coronary syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, valvular heart disease). The treatment was based on oxygen (69.7%; 67.9–71.5%), diuretics (69.2%; 67.9–71.5%), nitroglycerin (19.7%; 18.3–21.4%), and noninvasive ventilation (15.2%; 13.8–16.6%). Death occurred within 6 h in 2.5% of cases (2.0–3.1%), 6.4% (5.5–7.3%) were referred to the care of their general practitioners within a few hours from ED attendance or after short-term (< 24 h) observation 13.9% (12.6–15.2%); 60.4% (58.5–62.2%) were admitted to the hospital, and 16.8% (15.4–18.3%) were cared for in intensive care units according to disease severity. Conclusions Our study reporting the “real-world” clinical activity indicates that subjects attending the Italian EDs for AHF are rather different from those reported in international registries. Subjects are older, with a higher proportion of females, and high prevalence of cardiac and noncardiac comorbidities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-185
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2017


  • acute heart failure
  • clinical characteristics
  • emergency department
  • epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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