Acute coronary syndrome: what do patients know?

American Medical Association
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Archives of Internal Medicine, 2008, 168 (10), pp. 1049 - 1054
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Background: The effectiveness of therapy for an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) is dependent on patients' quick decision to seek treatment. We surveyed patients' level of knowledge about heart disease and self-perceived risk for a future acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in patients with documented ischemic heart disease. Methods: Patients (N = 3522) had a mean age of 67 years, 68% were male, and all had a history of AMI or invasive cardiac procedure for ischemic heart disease. Data were gathered using a 26-item instrument focusing on ACS symptoms and appropriate steps to seeking treatment. Patients were asked to identify their level of perceived risk for a future AMI. Results: Forty-six percent of patients had low knowledge levels (ie, <70% of answers were correct). The mean score was 71%. Higher knowledge scores were significantly related to female sex (P = .001), younger age (P = .001), higher education (P = .001), participation in cardiac rehabilitation (P = .001), and receiving care by a cardiologist rather than an internist or general practitioner (P = .005). Clinical history (eg, AMI [P = .24] and cardiac surgery [P = .38]) were not significant predictors of knowledge. Most (57%) identified themselves as being at higher risk for a future AMI compared with an age-matched individual without heart disease with 1 exception. Namely, patients who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery felt significantly less vulnerable for a future AMI than other individuals of the same age. Conclusions: Even following diagnosis of ACS and numerous interactions with physicians and other health care professionals, knowledge about ACS symptoms and treatment on the part of patients with cardiac disease remains poor. Patients require continued reinforcement about the nature of cardiac symptoms, the benefits of early treatment, and their risk status.
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