Management of Cognitive Impairment in Heart Failure

Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. 2016 Jan;18(1):4. doi: 10.1007/s11936-015-0425-7.


Cognitive impairment (CI) is an inclusive term to describe trouble with memory, learning, concentration, or decision-making. CI is highly prevalent in patients with heart failure (HF) and is known to be associated with a variety of poor outcomes. While published HF guidelines recommend screening for CI, they do not indicate how, due to a lack of consensus in the literature about which instrument to use. Our recommendation is to use the Mini-Cog for this purpose because of its brevity and utility in identifying patients with HF at high risk for hospitalization or mortality. At this time, there is minimal published clinical trial evidence about how to manage CI in patients with HF. Reasonable approaches to management may include following guideline-directed medical therapy for HF, treatment of hypertension and atrial fibrillation, management of depression, proactive diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea, and encouragement of aerobic exercise and weight loss. Left ventricular assist device (LVAD) therapy in patients with Stage D HF may improve CI in the short term after implantation, though there is a risk of worsening CI in the intermediate and long term. Clinicians who care for patients with HF should routinely screen for CI and when identified should encourage interventions to support self-care, increase family involvement, and arrange for more frequent follow-up.

Keywords: Cognitive impairment; Heart failure.