Aim: To determine whether an intensive intervention at a heart failure (HF) clinic by a combination of a clinician and a cardiovascular nurse, both trained in HF, reduces the incidence of hospitalisation for worsening HF and/or all-cause mortality (primary end point) and improves functional status (including left ventricular ejection fraction, New York Heart Association (NYHA) class and quality of life) in patients with NYHA class III or IV.
Setting: Two regional teaching hospitals in The Netherlands.
Methods: 240 patients were randomly allocated to the 1-year intervention (n = 118) or usual care (n = 122). The intervention consisted of 9 scheduled patient contacts—at day 3 by telephone, and at weeks 1, 3, 5, 7 and at months 3, 6, 9 and 12 by a visit—to a combined, intensive physician-and-nurse-directed HF outpatient clinic, starting within a week after hospital discharge from the hospital or referral from the outpatient clinic. Verbal and written comprehensive education, optimisation of treatment, easy access to the clinic, recommendations for exercise and rest, and advice for symptom monitoring and self-care were provided. Usual care included outpatient visits initialised by individual cardiologists in the cardiology departments involved and applying the guidelines of the European Society of Cardiology.
Results: During the 12-month study period, the number of admissions for worsening HF and/or all-cause deaths in the intervention group was lower than in the control group (23 vs 47; relative risk (RR) 0.49; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.30 to 0.81; p = 0.001). There was an improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) in the intervention group (plus 2.6%) compared with the usual care group (minus 3.1%; p = 0.004). Patients in the intervention group were hospitalised for a total of 359 days compared with 644 days for those in the usual care group. Beneficial effects were also observed on NYHA classification, prescription of spironolactone, maximally reached dose of β-blockers, quality of life, self-care behaviour and healthcare costs.
Conclusion: A heart failure clinic involving an intensive intervention by both a clinician and a cardiovascular nurse substantially reduces hospitalisations for worsening HF and/or all-cause mortality and improves functional status, while decreasing healthcare costs, even in a country with a primary-care-based healthcare system.
- ACE, angiotensin-converting enzyme
- ARB, angiotensin receptor blocker
- BNP, brain natriuretic peptide
- CHF, congestive heart failure
- HF, heart failure
- LVEF, left ventricular ejection fraction
- NYHA, New York Heart Association
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