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Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2003 Sep;2(3):213-7.

Symptoms experienced in the last six months of life in patients with end-stage heart failure.

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  • 1Department of Caring and Public Health Sciences, Mälardalen University, Västerås, Karpvägen 6, Kvicksund 640 45, Sweden.



Despite today's modern therapy, the advancement of chronic heart failure (CHF) has not been curbed (Dying from heart failure: lessons from palliative care, BMJ, 317, 1998, 961-962, Editorial). Consequently, the suffering in patients with end-stage CHF is still present. The knowledge on the frequency of symptoms in these patients is scarce.


The aim of this study was to achieve a deeper understanding of patients with end-stage CHF and to describe symptoms in these patients during the last 6 months of life by examining documentation in medical records.


The study adopted a descriptive, retrospective design using record reviews to collect data, in which 80 medical records of patients hospitalised for CHF in 1995 were reviewed. Descriptive statistics and Student's t-tests were performed.


Breathlessness was the most common symptom (men 90%, women 86%). The largest gender difference was on limitation in physical activity (men=77%, women=37%, total=49%, P=0.001).


(1) Twenty-one symptoms were observed, implicating that, patients with CHF in later stages of the disease experience a wide range of symptoms. (2) Despite the fact that several symptoms were documented by both nurses and physicians, it is quite remarkable that symptom-controlling measures were only provided sparingly. (3) A palliative care approach may benefit patients suffering from end-stage CHF.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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