Proactive Goals Key for Heart Failure Patients

Heart failure patients encouraged to make decisions early

(RxWiki News) With the continued development of new treatments and technology, advanced heart failure patients are living longer. Doctors suggest maximizing that added longevity by discussing goals and care preferences earlier.

A scientific statement suggests that patients inform their physicians of personal care options that match their values, goals and preferences.

"Talk to a cardiologist about your heart failure care preferences."

Dr. Larry A. Allen, lead author and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, noted that for advanced heart failure patients, the decisions should be proactive and patient-centered.

He suggests discussing future expectations and a full range of treatment options, including end-of-life care. This may be especially important as new treatments are unveiled and new life-prolonging technology becomes available.

“The process of checking in with patients on a regular basis is extremely important because heart failure and general health change over time,” said Dr. Allen.

He suggested the discussions as an addition, not a replacement, for talks prompted by health changes such as hospitalizations. Heart failure progresses over time, and in the early stages it is usually treatable with medication and lifestyle changes.

Once heart failure becomes advanced, patients may require pacemakers, surgically implanted pumps to increase blood flow, or possibly even a heart transplant. The early conversations are important because some patients would rather opt for comfort and pain relief over trying every available medical therapy.

Shared decision-making, the authors said, will aid individual patients in deciding which treatments should or should not be pursued.

The scientific statement was recently published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

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Review Date: 
March 5, 2012