Background: Heart failure is difficult to diagnose in a primary care setting with a reported false positive diagnosis in up to 70% of cases.
Aims: To use echocardiography in a large rural practice to evaluate the accuracy of diagnosis of heart failure in patients over 65 years of age.
Methods: Sixty patients with a previous diagnosis of heart failure were selected at random from the practice records and were invited to attend for an echocardiogram at the practice premises.
Results: Fifty-eight patients attended, the age was 81+/-7 years, 29% had impaired left ventricular (LV) systolic function of whom 65% were in atrial fibrillation. A further 7% had isolated diastolic LV dysfunction. The prevalence of heart failure by clinical assessment was 29 per 1000 in this patient group and 9 per 1000 when echocardiography was used to confirm the diagnosis.
Conclusion: True heart failure in this population is less prevalent than has been estimated from practice records.