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Palliative care for advanced heart failure in a Department of Veterans Affairs regional hospice program: Patient selection, a treatment protocol, and clinical course.

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Published:22nd May 2017
Author: Taylor GJ, Lee DM, Baicu CF, Zile MR.
Availability: Free full text
Ref.:J Palliat Med. 2017 May 22.
Palliative Care for Advanced Heart Failure in a Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Hospice Program: Patient Selection, a Treatment Protocol, and Clinical Course

Palliative care for advanced heart failure (HF) is generally recommended. However, few reports have focused on the particulars of treatment, or the clinical course of HF on a specific treatment regimen.

Objective: Palliation adequate to allow patients to avoid HF admission and die at home.

Methods: Patients from a veterans administration regional practice with multiple, recent hospital admissions were enrolled in community hospice programs. Treatment of HF with reduced left ventricular ejection fraction (HFrEF) included guidelines-directed medical therapy, digoxin, opioids, and oral bumetanide (with metolazone as needed) rather than intravenous diuretics. Levodopa (l-dopa) was added when conventional therapy failed to control symptoms. HF with preserved EF was also treated with bumetanide and opioids.

Results: Thirty male veterans, 23 of them with HFrEF, had 90 HF admissions in the 6 months before enrollment, and 3 HF admissions during follow-up of at least 14 months. Twenty-one patients died, 18 of them at home; 14 died within 5 months, and the rest lived much longer. Failure to improve with initial therapy predicted early death. Results were similar for those with reduced and preserved left ventricular ejection fraction. L-dopa was started in 13 patients and tolerated by 8 patients; functional class improved and B-type natriuretic peptide declined after treatment.

Conclusions: With this treatment protocol, there were few HF admissions and patients were able to die at home. It can be used as a guide to therapy, or as an approach that can be tested with additional study.


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