Hospital patterns of use of positive inotropic agents in patients with heart failure

Chohreh Partovian, Scott R. Gleim, Purav S. Mody, Shu Xia Li, Haiyan Wang, Kelly M. Strait, Larry A. Allen, Tara Lagu, Sharon Lise T. Normand, Harlan M. Krumholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study sought to determine hospital variation in the use of positive inotropic agents in patients with heart failure. Background: Clinical guidelines recommend targeted use of positive inotropic agents in highly selected patients, but data are limited and the recommendations are not specific. Methods: We analyzed data from 376 hospitals including 189,948 hospitalizations for heart failure from 2009 through 2010. We used hierarchical logistic regression models to estimate hospital-level risk-standardized rates of inotrope use and risk-standardized in-hospital mortality rates. Results: The risk-standardized rates of inotrope use ranged across hospitals from 0.9% to 44.6% (median: 6.3%, interquartile range: 4.3% to 9.2%). We identified various hospital patterns based on the type of agents: dobutamine-predominant (29% of hospitals), dopamine-predominant (25%), milrinone-predominant (1%), mixed dobutamine and dopamine pattern (32%), and mixed pattern including all 3 agents (13%). When studying the factors associated with interhospital variation, the best model performance was with the hierarchical generalized linear models that adjusted for patient case mix and an individual hospital effect (receiver operating characteristic curves from 0.77 to 0.88). The intraclass correlation coefficients of the hierarchical generalized linear models (0.113 for any inotrope) indicated that a noteworthy proportion of the observed variation was related to an individual institutional effect. Hospital rates or patterns of use were not associated with differences in length of stay or risk-standardized mortality rates. Conclusions: We found marked differences in the use of inotropic agents for heart failure patients among a diverse group of hospitals. This variability, occurring in the context of little clinical evidence, indicates an urgent need to define the appropriate use of these medications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1402-1409
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Oct 9 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • heart failure
  • in-hospital mortality
  • inotrope use
  • variation in care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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