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J Palliat Med. 2013 Jan;16(1):87-90. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2012.0248. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

An evaluation of the prevalence and severity of pain and other symptoms in acute decompensated heart failure.

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Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and Palliative Care Program , Los Angeles, California 90048, USA.



Heart failure is characterized by recurrent decompensations and persistent symptoms that decrease quality of life. Shortness of breath and fatigue are commonly identified symptoms but there is limited data on pain in heart failure patients. The Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) was used to identify the prevalence and severity of pain and other symptoms experienced by patients with acute decompensated heart failure.


This is a cross-sectional study that evaluated patients with a history of chronic heart failure admitted to the hospital with acute decompensated heart failure. A standardized questionnaire (ESAS) was administered to patients within 24 hours of hospital admission. Exclusion criteria included patients <18 years of age, admission for a noncardiac reason, active malignancy, history of chronic pain, outpatient chronic pain medication use, and those actively followed by the palliative care service.


One hundred patients, 67 males, with a mean age of 58 ± 17 years were recruited. The mean ejection fraction (EF) was 37%± 18%. Sixty patients (60%) reported pain of any degree. Patients with lower EF (≤ 40%, n=61) reported significantly higher pain scores (4.1 ± 3.6) compared to patients with higher EF (>40%, n=36, 2.7 ± 3.4, p<0.05). Tiredness, shortness of breath, and decreased well-being were the most severe symptoms with mean scores of 6.3 ± 2.8, 6.1 ± 3.1, and 5.7 ± 2.6, respectively.


Pain is a common, underrecognized symptom in patients with chronic but acute decompensated heart failure. Decreased well-being, shortness of breath, and tiredness are the most common and severe symptoms in patients with chronic heart failure, regardless of ejection fraction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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