Symptom burden, psychosocial distress and palliative care needs in heart failure – A cross-sectional explorative pilot study


BACKGROUND: Beyond guideline-directed treatments aimed at improving cardiac function and prognosis in heart failure (HF), patient-reported outcomes have gained attention.

PURPOSE: Using a cross-sectional approach, we assessed symptom burden, psychosocial distress, and potential palliative care (PC) needs in patients with advanced stages of HF.

METHODS: At a large tertiary care center, we enrolled HF patients in an exploratory pilot study. Symptom burden and psychosocial distress were assessed using the MIDOS (Minimal Documentation System for Patients in PC) questionnaire and the Distress Thermometer (DT), respectively. The 4-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-4) was used to screen for anxiety and depression. To assess PC needs, physicians used the "Palliative Care Screening Tool for HF Patients".

RESULTS: We included 259 patients, of whom 137 (53%) were enrolled at the Heart Failure Unit (HFU), and 122 (47%) at the outpatient clinic (OC). Mean age was 63 years, 72% were male. New York Heart Association class III or IV symptoms were present in 56%. With a mean 5-year survival 64% (HFU) vs. 69% (OC) calculated by the Seattle Heart Failure Model, estimated prognosis was comparatively good. Symptom burden (MIDOS score 8.0 vs. 5.4, max. 30 points, p < 0.001) and level of distress (DT score 6.0 vs. 4.8, max. 10 points, p < 0.001) were higher in hospitalised patients. Clinically relevant distress was detected in the majority of patients (HFU 76% vs. OC 57%, p = 0.001), and more than one third exhibited at least mild symptoms of depression or anxiety. Screening for PC needs revealed 82% of in- and 52% of outpatients fulfil criteria for specialized palliative support.

CONCLUSION: Despite a good prognosis, we found multiple undetected and unaddressed needs in an advanced HF cohort. This study's tools and screening results may help to early explore these needs, to further improve integrated HF care.

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 01.2023

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