Evidence-Based Management of Acute Heart Failure

Can J Cardiol. 2021 Apr;37(4):621-631. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2021.01.002. Epub 2021 Jan 10.


Acute heart failure (AHF) is a complex, heterogeneous, clinical syndrome with high morbidity and mortality, incurring significant health care costs. Patients transition from home to the emergency department, the hospital, and home again and require decisions surrounding diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis at each step of the way. The purpose of this review is to examine the epidemiology, etiology, and classifications of AHF and specifically focus on practical information relevant to the clinician. We examine the mechanisms of decompensation relevant to clinical presentations-including precipitating factors, neuroendocrine interactions, and inflammation-along with how consideration of these factors may help select therapies for an individual patient. The prevalence and significance of end-organ manifestations such as renal, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and neurologic manifestations are discussed. We also highlight how the development of renal dysfunction relates to the choice of a variety of diuretics that may be useful in specific circumstances and review guideline-directed medical therapy. We discuss the practical use (and pitfalls) of a variety of evidence-based clinical scoring criteria available to risk stratify patients with AHF. Finally, evidence-based management of AHF is discussed, including both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies, including the lack of evidence for using old and new vasodilators and the recent evidence regarding initiation of newer therapies in hospital. Overall, we suggest that clinicians consider implementing the newer data in AHF and subject existing practice patterns and treatments to the same rigour as new therapies.

Publication types

  • Review