Monthly Archives: September 2015

What to do about the “weekend effect” to do about the “weekend effect”

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 10 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4840

Fiona Godlee, editor in chief, The BMJ

Does being admitted to hospital at the weekend increase your risk of dying in the next 30 days compared with admission during the week? If so, is your death avoidable, and would a fully operational seven day service prevent it? A new Analysis article by Nick Freemantle and colleagues sheds some light on these questions but leaves many more to be answered (doi:10.1136/bmj.h4596).

The findings confirm these authors’ previous work published in 2012 (doi:10.1258/jrsm.2012.120009). They find that patients admitted on Saturdays and Sundays have an increased relative risk of death of 10% and 15%, respectively. They also find a smaller increased risk of death for patients admitted on Mondays and Fridays, extending the “weekend effect” to those days. They conclude that around 11 000 more patients die each year within 30 days if they are admitted between Friday and Monday than if they’re admitted on other days of the week. When adjustments are made for the fact that patients admitted at weekends are sicker, the increased risk of death within 30 days is less but still present and, in the authors’ words, not ignorable.

What these figures actually mean is now hotly debated. The secretary of state for health seized on them before they were published to support his call for more senior consultants to work at weekends. This leap, from a statistical excess of deaths in patients admitted at weekends to a solution focused on more senior medical staff working at weekends, is just one way in which these data are being abused and the public misled.

The weekend effect is real, concludes Helen Crump in her review of the evidence (doi:10.1136/bmj.h4473). Paul Aylin confirms this in his Editorial but explains that we are left with a range of possible explanations (doi:10.1136/bmj.h4652). These need to be scrutinised before assumptions and suggestions harden into policy. The evidence is conflicting but seems to point more to the importance of a fully functioning service than to simply needing more senior medical cover. One study found no weekend effect on intensive care units, which have more consistent staffing levels. Another found that the weekend effect was not reduced if stroke specialists did ward rounds seven days a week but was affected by the level of nurse staffing. This link between nurse staffing and overall hospital mortality has been reproduced, says Aylin, in a recent very large European study.

Whether the right answer is more senior medical cover or an overall improvement in staffing levels at weekends, the cost is likely to be substantial, as Martin McKee points out, possibly exceeding the cost per quality adjusted life year threshold set by NICE (doi:10.1136/bmj.h4723).

Clearly something needs to be done to reduce the risk of death in patients admitted to hospital at weekends. But using these data to beat up on senior doctors, most of whom already work at weekends, is neither constructive nor evidence based. We need a dispassionate look at the existing evidence, a focused effort to improve the evidence base, and a collaborative debate about the best response.

Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4840

Dual anti-platelet therapy for secondary prevention of CV events in patients with prior MI

REFERENCE Udell JA, Bonaca MP, Collet JP, et al. Long-term dual antiplatelet therapy for secondary prevention of cardiovascular events in the subgroup of patients with previous myocardial infarction: a collaborative meta-analysis of randomized trials. Eur Heart J. 2015 Aug 31. pii: ehv443. (Review) PMID: 26324537

AIMS: Recent trials have examined the effect of prolonged dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT) in a variety of patient populations, with heterogeneous results regarding benefit and safety, specifically with regard to cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular mortality. We performed a meta-analysis of randomized trials comparing more than a year of DAPT with aspirin alone in high-risk patients with a history of prior myocardial infarction (MI).
METHODS AND RESULTS: A total of 33 435 patients were followed over a mean 31 months among one trial of patients with prior MI (63.3% of total) and five trials with a subgroup of patients that presented with, or had a history of, a prior MI (36.7% of total). Extended DAPT decreased the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events compared with aspirin alone (6.4 vs. 7.5%; risk ratio, RR 0.78, 95% confidence intervals, CI, 0.67-0.90; P = 0.001) and reduced cardiovascular death (2.3 vs. 2.6%; RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.74-0.98; P = 0.03), with no increase in non-cardiovascular death (RR 1.03, 95% CI 0.86-1.23; P = 0.76). The resultant effect on all-cause mortality was an RR of 0.92 (95% CI 0.83-1.03; P = 0.13). Extended DAPT also reduced MI (RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.55-0.88; P = 0.003), stroke (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.68-0.97; P = 0.02), and stent thrombosis (RR 0.50, 95% CI 0.28-0.89; P = 0.02). There was an increased risk of major bleeding (1.85 vs. 1.09%; RR 1.73, 95% CI 1.19-2.50; P = 0.004) but not fatal bleeding (0.14 vs. 0.17%; RR 0.91, 95% CI 0.53-1.58; P = 0.75).
CONCLUSION: Compared with aspirin alone, DAPT beyond 1 year among stabilized high-risk patients with prior MI decreases ischaemic events, including significant reductions in the individual endpoints of cardiovascular death, recurrent MI, and stroke. Dual antiplatelet therapy beyond 1 year increases major bleeding, but not fatal bleeding or non-cardiovascular death.

Courtesy of Evidence Updates from British Medical Journal