Article Text

Barriers to using palliative care in heart failure management
  1. Hildegard Kolb, Staff Nurse
  1. Hildegard Kolb is Staff Nurse, The Ayrshire Hospice, Ayr


Despite the fact that end-stage heart failure patients experience symptoms similar in nature and severity to cancer patients during the terminal phase of disease, they are rarely considered for palliative care. Heart failure tends to be classified as a chronic illness. However, it only has about a 5-year survival rate, which is worse than many cancers, and the only cure is heart transplantation. It should therefore be considered a terminal illness. It is a life-threatening, progressive condition associated with deterioration over an unpredictable period. This article defines the five main obstacles that prevent heart failure patients from receiving palliative care. These are unpredictability of the illness trajectory, diagnostic difficulties in predicting life expectancy for the individual, healthcare professionals’ lack of awareness about the principles of palliative care, poor communication and the misconception that palliative care is solely for cancer patients. This article discusses how these barriers may be overcome and encourages nurses to advocate on behalf of heart failure patients. Conflicts of interest: none

  • End-stage heart failure
  • End-of-life care
  • Heart failure
  • Palliative care
  • Terminal illness

Statistics from

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.