Background: The major costs associated with the management of congestive heart failure (CHF) are inpatient costs. Outcome studies are therefore important to establish whether intensive outpatient care for heart failure can reduce these costs while at the same time improving outcomes in this disabling disorder.
Hypothesis: Care delivered in a cardiomyopathy clinic might result in objective improvement in cardiac function and symptoms while reducing hospital admissions and emergency department visits.
Methods: The outcomes of 21 patients treated for 6 months in a cardiomyopathy clinic are evaluated. New patients referred to the clinic with ejection fraction (EF) < 0.45 were enrolled. The Minnesota Living with Heart Failure questionnaire was completed at initial and final visits. All patients underwent baseline and final echocardiogram, radionuclide left ventriculogram, and cardiopulmonary exercise testing. Patients were followed by a nurse practitioner and a cardiologist with maximization of standard treatment. Congestive heart failure-related hospitalizations and clinic and emergency room visits for both 6-month periods before and during the study were determined.
Results: There was significant (p < 0.05) improvement in these parameters: Heart failure score increased 23 points; New York Heart Association class decreased from 2.6 to 2.2; EF increased from 0.24 to 0.36; diastolic and systolic left ventricular dimensions decreased from 65 to 59 mm and from 57 to 50 mm, respectively. The number of clinic visits increased 5-fold, whereas there were 86% (14 to 2, p = 0.017) and 100% (8 to 0, p = 0.002) reductions in the number of CHF hospitalizations and emergency visits. There was one death during follow-up.
Conclusion: Managing patients in a cardiomyopathy clinic may result in a better quality of life, with both symptomatic improvement and decreased hospitalizations.