362. Guidelines: 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure – Question #32 with Dr. Harriette Van Spall

The following question refers to Section 13 of the 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure.

The question is asked by Western Michigan University medical student and CardioNerds Intern Shivani Reddy, answered first by Mayo Clinic Cardiology Fellow and CardioNerds Academy Faculty Dr. Dinu Balanescu, and then by expert faculty Dr. Harriette Van Spall.

Dr. Van Spall is an Associate Professor of Medicine, cardiologist, and Director of E-Health at McMaster University. Dr Van Spall is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research-funded clinical trialist and researcher with a focus on heart failure, health services, and health disparities.

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.

Palliative and supportive care has a role for patients with heart failure only in the end stages of their disease.




The correct answer is False

Palliative care is patient- and family-centered care that optimizes health-related quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering and should be integrated into the management of all stages of heart failure throughout the course of illness. The wholistic model of palliative care includes high-quality communication, estimation of prognosis, anticipatory guidance, addressing uncertainty, shared decision-making about medically reasonable treatment options, advance care planning; attention to physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological distress; relief of suffering; and inclusion of family caregivers in patient care and attention to their needs during bereavement.

As such, for all patients with HF, palliative and supportive care—including high-quality communication, conveyance of prognosis, clarifying goals of care, shared decision-making, symptom management, and caregiver support—should be provided to improve QOL and relieve suffering (Class 1, LOE C-LD).

For conveyance of prognosis, objective risk models can be incorporated along with discussion of uncertainty since patients may overestimate survival and the benefits of specific treatments – “hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

For clarifying goals of care, the exploration of each patient’s values and concerns through shared decision-making is essential in important management decisions such as when to discontinue treatments, when to initiate palliative treatments that may hasten death but provide symptom management, planning the location of death, and the incorporation of home services or hospice.

It is a Class I indication that for patients with HF being considered for, or treated with life-extending therapies, the option for discontinuation should be anticipated and discussed through the continuum of care, including at the time of initiation, and reassessed with changing medical conditions and shifting goals of care (LOE C-LD).

Caregiver support should also be offered to family members even beyond death to help them cope with the grieving process.

A formal palliative care consult is not needed for each patient, but the primary team should exercise the above domains to improve processes of care and patient outcomes.

Specialist palliative care consultation can be useful to improve QOL and relieve suffering for patients with heart failure—particularly those with stage D HF who are being evaluated for advanced therapies, patients requiring inotropic support or temporary mechanical support, patients experiencing uncontrolled symptoms, major medical decisions, or multimorbidity, frailty, and cognitive impairment (Class 2a, LOE B). Studies have been mixed on if the palliative team itself improves quality of life and well-being so these interventions should be tailored to each patient and caregiver.

For patients with HF, execution of advanced directives can be useful to improve documentation of treatment preferences, delivery of patient-centered care, and dying in a preferred place (Class 2a, LOE C-LD).

In patients with advanced HF with expected survival < 6 months, timely referral to hospice can be useful to improve QOL (Class 2a, LOE C-LD)

Main Takeaway

In summary, the core principles of palliative care that include communication, transparency on prognosis, clarification of goals of care, shared decision-making, symptom management, and caregiver support should be integrated into each patient’s treatment plan regardless of the stage of heart failure

Guideline Loc.

Section 13, Figure 15, Table 32

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