Palliative care helps heart patients
New research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association indicates palliative care can significantly lower the risk of rehospitalization and the need for invasive procedures, including mechanical ventilation and defibrillator implantation, for heart failure patients.
Palliative care provides support to patients with chronic conditions to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Predominately occurring in the home, it focuses on pain relief and emotional support.
“There’s a false perception that palliative and at-home care is only provided at the very end of life. However, palliative care can be beneficial for patients in any stage of a serious illness,” said palliative care expert Neeraj Mendiratta, MD, volunteer medical expert for the American Heart Association and assistant physician in chief at Kaiser Permanente.
Using data from the Veterans Affairs (VA) External Peer Review Program, researchers identified more than 57,000 patients who had been hospitalized for heart failure at one of the 124 VA medical centers between 2010 and 2015.
Among those, 1,400 received palliative care prior to and during hospitalization for heart failure. Patients were matched for age, gender and similar health conditions and compared with the same number of patients in a control group who did not receive palliative care.
The study found:
—Palliative care reduced rehospitalization rates. Overall, 31% of patients in the palliative care group experienced repeated hospital readmissions compared to 40% of patients in the control group.
—The risks of mechanical ventilation and defibrillator implantation were significantly lower for palliative care patients (2.8% for palliative care versus 5.4% in the control group; and 2.1% for palliative care versus 3.6% in the control group, respectively).
—After adjusting for hospital differences around the country, palliative care reduced hospital readmissions and being put on mechanical ventilation by about 25%.
Additional information on this study and resources on heart failure and palliative care are available at newsroom.heart.org.