Palliative Care in Heart Failure: The PAL-HF Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017 Jul 18;70(3):331-341. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.05.030.


Background: Advanced heart failure (HF) is characterized by high morbidity and mortality. Conventional therapy may not sufficiently reduce patient suffering and maximize quality of life.

Objectives: The authors investigated whether an interdisciplinary palliative care intervention in addition to evidence-based HF care improves certain outcomes.

Methods: The authors randomized 150 patients with advanced HF between August 15, 2012, and June 25, 2015, to usual care (UC) (n = 75) or UC plus a palliative care intervention (UC + PAL) (n = 75) at a single center. Primary endpoints were 2 quality-of-life measurements, the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire (KCCQ) overall summary and the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Palliative Care scale (FACIT-Pal), assessed at 6 months. Secondary endpoints included assessments of depression and anxiety (measured via the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale [HADS]), spiritual well-being (measured via the FACIT-Spiritual Well-Being scale [FACIT-Sp]), hospitalizations, and mortality.

Results: Patients randomized to UC + PAL versus UC alone had clinically significant incremental improvement in KCCQ and FACIT-Pal scores from randomization to 6 months (KCCQ difference = 9.49 points, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.94 to 18.05, p = 0.030; FACIT-Pal difference = 11.77 points, 95% CI: 0.84 to 22.71, p = 0.035). Depression improved in UC + PAL patients (HADS-depression difference = -1.94 points; p = 0.020) versus UC-alone patients, with similar findings for anxiety (HADS-anxiety difference = -1.83 points; p = 0.048). Spiritual well-being was improved in UC + PAL versus UC-alone patients (FACIT-Sp difference = 3.98 points; p = 0.027). Randomization to UC + PAL did not affect rehospitalization or mortality.

Conclusions: An interdisciplinary palliative care intervention in advanced HF patients showed consistently greater benefits in quality of life, anxiety, depression, and spiritual well-being compared with UC alone. (Palliative Care in Heart Failure [PAL-HF]; NCT01589601).

Keywords: heart failure; palliative care; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis
  • Heart Failure / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data