257. Guidelines: 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure – Question #4 with Dr. Eldrin Lewis

The following question refers to Section 4.1 of the 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA Guideline for the Management of Heart FailureThe question is asked by Texas Tech University medical student and CardioNerds Academy Intern Dr. Adriana Mares, answered first by Baylor University cardiology fellow and CardioNerds FIT Trialist Dr. Shiva Patlolla, and then by expert faculty Dr. Eldrin Lewis.

Dr. Lewis is an Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiologist, Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Stanford University.

The Decipher the Guidelines: 2022 AHA / ACC / HFSA Guideline for The Management of Heart Failure series was developed by the CardioNerds and created in collaboration with the American Heart Association and the Heart Failure Society of America. It was created by 30 trainees spanning college through advanced fellowship under the leadership of CardioNerds Cofounders Dr. Amit Goyal and Dr. Dan Ambinder, with mentorship from Dr. Anu Lala, Dr. Robert Mentz, and Dr. Nancy Sweitzer. We thank Dr. Judy Bezanson and Dr. Elliott Antman for tremendous guidance.

Enjoy this Circulation 2022 Paths to Discovery article to learn about the CardioNerds story, mission, and values.

Mr. Stevens is a 55-year-old man who presents with progressively worsening dyspnea on exertion for the past 2 weeks. He has associated paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, intermittent exertional chest pressure, and bilateral lower extremity edema. Otherwise, Mr. Stevens does not have any medical history and does not take any medications. 

Which of the following will be helpful for diagnosis at this time?


 Detailed history and physical examination


 Chest x-ray


 Blood workup including CBC, CMP, NT proBNP


 12-lead ECG


All of the above



The correct answer is E – All of the above. 

Mr. Stevens presents with signs and symptoms of volume overload concerning for new onset heart failure. The history and physical exam remain the cornerstone in the assessment of patients with HF. Not only is the H&P valuable for identifying the presence of heart failure but also may provide hints about the degree of congestion, underlying etiology, and alternative diagnoses. As such H&P earns a Class 1 indication for a variety of reasons in patients with heart failure:

1.       Vital signs and evidence of clinical congestion should be assessed at each encounter to guide overall management, including adjustment of diuretics and other medications (Class 1, LOE B-NR)

2.       Clinical factors indicating the presence of advanced HF should be sought via the history and physical examination (Class 1, LOE B-NR)

3.       A 3-generation family history should be obtained or updated when assessing the cause of the cardiomyopathy to identify possible inherited disease (Class 1, LOE B-NR)

4.       A thorough history and physical examination should direct diagnostic strategies to uncover specific causes that may warrant disease-specific management (Class 1, LOE B-NR)

5.       A thorough history and physical examination should be obtained and performed to identify cardiac and noncardiac disorders, lifestyle and behavioral factors, and social determinants of health that might cause or accelerate the development or progression of HF (Class 1, LOE C-EO)

Building on the H&P, laboratory evaluation provides important information about comorbidities, suitability for and adverse effects of treatments, potential causes or confounders of HF, severity and prognosis of HF, and more. As such, for patients who are diagnosed with HF, laboratory evaluation should include complete blood count, urinalysis, serum electrolytes, blood urea nitrogen, serum creatinine, glucose, lipid profile, liver function tests, iron studies, and thyroid-stimulating hormone to optimize management (Class 1, LOE C-EO). In addition, the specific cause of HF should be explored using additional laboratory testing for appropriate management (LOE 1, LOE B-NR). In patients presenting with dyspnea such as Mr. Stevens, measurement of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) or N-terminal prohormone of B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) is useful to support a diagnosis or exclusion of HF (Class 1, LOE A); and in those with chronic HF, measurements of BNP or NT-proBNP levels are recommended for risk stratification (Class 1, LOE A).

In addition to bloodwork, electrocardiography is part of the routine evaluation of a patient with HF and provides important information on rhythm, heart rate, QRS morphology and duration, cause, and prognosis of HF. So for all patients with HF, a 12-lead ECG should be performed at the initial encounter to optimize management (Class 1, LOE C-EO).

Imaging is essential in the diagnosis and management of heart failure. In patients with suspected or new-onset HF, or those presenting with acute decompensated

HF, a chest x-ray should be performed to assess heart size and pulmonary congestion and to detect alternative cardiac, pulmonary, and other diseases that may cause or contribute to the patient’s symptoms (Class 1, LOE C-LD). Additionally, in those with suspected or newly diagnosed HF, transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) should be performed during the initial evaluation to assess cardiac structure and function (Class 1, LOE C-LD); and when echocardiography is inadequate, alternative imaging (e.g.,  cardiac

magnetic resonance [CMR], cardiac computed tomography [CT], radionuclide imaging) is recommended for assessment of LVEF (Class 1, LOE C-LD).

Main Takeaway 

In patients who present with signs and symptoms of volume overload concerning for new-onset heart failure, it is essential to rule out non-cardiac causes and assess for specific underlying causes of heart failure by using detailed history and physical examination. Once heart failure diagnosis is established, further workup with laboratory testing, ECG, and non-invasive cardiac imaging is warranted to investigate the etiology of heart failure and guide further management. Special attention should be given to detection of signs and symptoms suggesting an advanced stage of disease.

Guideline Loc. 

Section 4.1

257. Guidelines: 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure – Question #4 with Dr. Eldrin Lewis
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