The experience of fatigue as a distressing symptom of heart failure

Heart Lung. 2012 Sep-Oct;41(5):484-91. doi: 10.1016/j.hrtlng.2012.04.004. Epub 2012 May 30.


Objective: We explored the perceptions, experience, and meaning of fatigue as a distressing symptom of chronic heart failure (HF).

Background: Fatigue, a common symptom of HF, may indicate worsening condition. Patients interpret their symptoms to determine the need for assistance. The meaning of fatigue in everyday life for HF patients in the United States is not well understood.

Methods: We performed an interpretive study of in-depth interviews with HF patients (n = 26) who reported fatigue as a symptom, using a thematic analysis of transcripts within an iterative group framework.

Results: Fatigue is characterized by patient values related to their self-identity, their body, their experience of time, their environment, and their relationships with others, including the healthcare system.

Conclusions: Fatigue influences perceived proximity to death and how patients try to preserve what they can do. A patient's HF management plan should be tailored and responsive to that patient's experience of fatigue as communicated by the patient.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Fatigue / diagnosis
  • Fatigue / epidemiology
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status
  • Heart Failure / complications*
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*