Background The incidence of heart failure (HF) has declined in Europe during the past two decades. However, incidence estimates from registry-based studies may vary, partly because they depend on retrospective searches to exclude previous events. The aim of this study was to assess to what extent different lookback periods (LPs) affect temporal trends in incidence, and to identify the minimal acceptable LP. Further, we wanted to estimate temporal trends in incidence and prevalence of HF in a nationwide population, using the minimal acceptable LP.
Methods We identified all in- and out-patient contacts for HF in Norway during 2008 to 2018 from the Norwegian Patient Registry. To calculate the influence of varying LP on incident cases, we defined 2018 with 10 years of LP as a reference and calculated the relative difference by using one through 9 years of lookback. Temporal trends in incidence rates were estimated with sensitivity analyses applying varying LPs and different case definitions. Standardised incidence rates and prevalence were calculated by applying direct age- and sex-standardization to the 2013 European Standard Population. Results The overestimation of incident cases declined with increasing number of years included in the LP. Compared to a 10-year LP, application of 4, 6, and 8 years resulted in an overestimation of incident cases by 13.5%, 6.2% and 2.3%, respectively. Temporal trends in incidence were affected by the number of years in the LP and whether the LP was fixed or varied. Including all available data mislead to conclusions of declining incidence rates over time due to increasing LPs. Conclusions When taking the number of years with available data and HF mortality and morbidity into consideration, we propose that 6 years of fixed lookback is sufficient for identification of incident HF cases. HF incidence rates and prevalence increased from 2014 to 2018. Trial registration Retrospectively registered.
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