Background: As many patients with heart failure develop symptoms limiting daily life, newer therapies may be found to improve functional status without concomitant survival benefit. As some of these therapies may actually increase mortality, it is increasingly relevant to assess patients' preferences for survival vs improvement in symptoms.
Methods: We enrolled 99 patients with advanced heart failure (ejection fraction 24 +/- 10, duration 6 +/- 5 years). Each patient completed time trade-off and standard gamble instruments, Minnesota Living with Heart Failure questionnaires and visual analog scales for dyspnea and overall health. Jugular venous pressure was assessed in all patients and peak oxygen consumption was measured during bicycle exercise in 60 patients.
Results: Strong polarity of preference toward either survival or quality of life was expressed by 60% of patients. There was good correlation between time trade-off and standard gamble utility scores (r = 0.64), and between preference and functional class (r = 0.60). Higher jugular venous pressure and lower peak oxygen consumption were associated with poorer utility scores (p <.05). Higher dyspnea scores and worse Living with Heart Failure scores were also associated with preference to trade time or take risks for better health.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that heart failure patients express meaningful preferences about quality vs length of life. High jugular venous pressure, low peak oxygen consumption and poor Living with Heart Failure scores were related to low utility scores. These cannot be assumed, however, to predict the intensity of individual preference to trade nothing or virtually everything for better health.