Palliative care is management of symptoms and decreasing the burden of Heart failure

Heart Failure Information

Why is heart failure important?

Heart failure affects more than 6 million people in North America, and an equivalent number in Europe. In the United States it has been the most common reason for people over age 65 years to be hospitalized. Heart failure is more common as age increases, but it also occurs in young people.
The cost of care for heart failure in the United States exceeds $30 billion per year.

What is heart failure and what can be done about it?

  • Heart Failure (also called HF, Congestive Heart Failure or CHF) is a “syndrome”: a group of symptoms (things people feel) and physical problems that may result from coronary artery disease, hypertension, inflammatory processes, inherited problems and other problems.
  • Heart failure is the loss of ability of the heart and blood vessels to pump oxygen in blood to meet the needs of body tissues. In heart failure, the body retains salt (sodium) and water and tissues become congested or swollen. People with heart failure must limit the amount of fluids and sodium they take in.
  • People with HF feel weak and they are not able to do normal physical activity.
  • Many people with heart failure have a weak heart muscle that does not pump with usual force. Medications and other treatments can improve the heart muscle pumping.
  • Other people with heart failure have a normal pumping strength in the heart, but circulation is not adequate because the heart doesn’t fill completely because the muscle is stiff or fast heart rhythms do not allow the chambers to fill.
  • Heart failure can develop from problems with the valves in the heart.
  • A related condition called Cor Pulmonale or “right sided heart failure” affecting the right side of the heart develops when problems arise in the lungs. Increased pressure in the lungs causes increased pressure in the right side of the heart and swelling in the abdomen and legs.

Palliative and Supportive Care for Heart Failure

In two consensus conferences on Palliative and Supportive Care in Advanced Heart Failure, we developed a model of care for patients with heart failure. Heart failure care should integrate education and support for the patient and family, management of symptoms, planning for what to do in an emergency and for care when the illness progresses.

In PC-HEART our goals are to work together to

  • know more about how to manage shortness of breath, fatigue, pain and other common problems for people with heart failure.
  • know how to communicate best, and help make decisions with people with heart failure and their families.

This model is described in a review paper here [2]

Heart Failure Web Resources

There are many web sites with information about heart failure. Here are some that we think have particular merit.

American Heart Association
Heart Failure Society of America