Palliative care consultations for heart failure patients: how many, when, and why?

Bakitas M, Macmartin M, Trzepkowski K, Robert A, Jackson L, Brown JR, Dionne-Odom JN, Kono A


Abstract

OBJECTIVE:
In preparation for development of a palliative care intervention for patients with heart failure (HF) and their caregivers, we aimed to characterize the HF population receiving palliative care consultations (PCCs).
METHODS AND RESULTS:
Reviewing charts from January 2006 to April 2011, we analyzed HF patient data including demographic and clinical characteristics, Seattle Heart Failure scores, and PCCs. Using Atlas qualitative software, we conducted a content analysis of PCC notes to characterize palliative care assessment and treatment recommendations. There were 132 HF patients with PCCs, of which 37% were New York Heart Association functional class III and 50% functional class IV. Retrospectively computed Seattle Heart Failure scores predicted 1-year mortality of 29% [interquartile range (IQR) 19-45] and median life expectancy of 2.8 years [IQR 1.6-4.2] years. Of the 132 HF patients, 115 (87%) had died by the time of the audit. In that cohort the actual median time from PCC to death was 21 [IQR 3-125] days. Reasons documented for PCCs included goals of care (80%), decision making (24%), hospice referral/discussion (24%), and symptom management (8%).
CONCLUSIONS:
Despite recommendations, PCCs are not being initiated until the last month of life. Earlier referral for PCC may allow for integration of a broader array of palliative care services.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

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