Palliative Care in the Management of Patients with Advanced Heart Failure

  • Susan E. LoweyEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1067)


Globally, there are 18-million individuals living with heart failure, a disease that is responsible for 12–15 million office visits and 6.5 million inpatient hospitalizations each year. As HF becomes advanced or end-stage, patients often live in a cycle of frequent transitions between care settings, and with unmet needs, including distress from inadequately managed symptoms. Prognostication in patients with heart failure can be challenging due to the unpredictable exacerbating-remitting illness trajectory that is associated with this progressive disease. Recurrent hospitalizations, worsening functional status and refractory symptoms, despite optimal therapies, are among the most salient predictors indicating that patients with advanced heart failure are nearing the end of life. Palliative care is a specialized form of medical care that has been shown to help improve severity of symptoms, facilitate discussions regarding medical decision making/advance care planning, and provide support for patients and their families. Palliative care can be used alongside curative treatments and has been shown to improve patient satisfaction and quality of life. Anorexia-cachexia syndrome, dyspnea, fatigue, pain and depression are among the most common symptoms experienced by patients suffering from advanced heart failure. Palliative care can help alleviate these symptoms and also facilitate conversations about decision making surrounding resuscitation status and use or deactivation of medical devices, such as an implantable-cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). Clinical practice guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association report that aggressive life-sustaining treatments and therapies should not be utilized in patients with advanced heart failure who have refractory symptoms that are not responding to medical therapy. The focus of care should switch to controlling symptoms, reducing hospital admissions and improving health-related quality of life, which can be supported by the incorporation of palliative care into the treatment plan.


Advanced care planning Advanced heart failure End-of-life care Heart failure Palliative care Symptom management 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NursingState University of New York College at BrockportNew YorkUSA

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