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SCIENCE FILE | SCIENCE IN BRIEF

Shorter Hospital Stays May Suffice After Heart Attacks

March 16, 2000|From Times staff and wire reports

Hospitals could safely move toward releasing heart attack patients without complications after just three days, instead of the usual five or six, a team of researchers suggests.

Hospital stays have shrunken drastically for heart attacks since the 1950s, when doctors believed patients needed such care for four to six weeks while the heart muscle healed. The latest analysis--in today's New England Journal of Medicine--is apt to push the industry toward even shorter stays, according to its chief author, Dr. Kristin Newby. Newby, of Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, N.C., joined researchers at four other institutions in carrying out the study.

Reviewing records of 22,361 patients, the researchers calculated that very few--perhaps as few as 13--benefited from a fourth day in the hospital. For an average patient, the fourth day yields only another two days in life expectancy.

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