Sex Differences in Quality of Life and Clinical Outcomes in Patients With Advanced Heart Failure: Insights From the PAL-HF Trial

Circ Heart Fail. 2020 Apr;13(4):e006134. doi: 10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.119.006134. Epub 2020 Apr 9.


Background: Palliative care improves quality of life in patients with heart failure. Whether men and women with heart failure derive similar benefit from palliative care interventions remains unknown.

Methods: In a secondary analysis of the PAL-HF trial (Palliative Care in Heart Failure), we analyzed differences in quality of life among men and women with heart failure and assessed for differential effects of the palliative care intervention by sex. Differences in clinical characteristics and quality-of-life metrics were compared between men and women at serial time points. The primary outcome was change in Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire score between baseline and 24 weeks.

Results: Among the 71 women and 79 men, there was a significant difference in baseline Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire (24.5 versus 36.2, respectively; P=0.04) but not Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Palliative Care scale (115.7 versus 120.3; P=0.27) scores. Among those who received the palliative care intervention (33 women and 42 men), women's quality-of-life score remained lower than that of men after enrollment. Treated men's scores were significantly higher than those untreated (6-month Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire, 68.0 [interquartile range, 52.6-85.7] versus 41.1[interquartile range, 32.0-78.3]; P=0.047), whereas the difference between treated and untreated women was not significantly different (P=0.39). Rates of death and rehospitalization, as well as the composite end point, were similar between treated and untreated women and men.

Conclusions: In the PAL-HF trial, women with heart failure experienced a greater symptom burden and poorer quality of life as compared with men. The change in treated men's Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire score between baseline and 24 weeks was significantly higher than those untreated; this trend was not observed in women. Thus, there may be a sex disparity in response to palliative care intervention, suggesting that sex-specific approaches to palliative care may be needed to improve outcomes. Registration: URL:; Unique identifier: NCT0158960.

Trial registration: NCT01589601.

Keywords: heart failure; palliative care; quality of life; sex-specific analysis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cost of Illness
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis
  • Heart Failure / mortality
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Heart Failure / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care*
  • Patient Readmission
  • Quality of Life*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data