End-of-life preferences of elderly patients with chronic heart failure

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Abstract

Aims

Elderly heart failure (HF) patients are assumed to prefer improved quality of life over longevity, but sufficient data are lacking. Therefore, we assessed the willingness to trade survival time for quality-of-life (QoL) and the preferences for resuscitation.

Methods and results

At baseline and after 12 and 18 months, 622 HF patients aged ≥60 years (77 ± 8 years, 74% NYHA-class ≥III) participating in the Trial of Intensified vs. standard Medical therapy in Elderly patients with Congestive Heart Failure had prospective evaluation of end-of-life preferences by answering trade-off questions (willingness to accept a shorter life span in return for living without symptoms) and preferences for resuscitation if necessary. The time trade-off question was answered by 555 patients (89%), 74% of whom were not willing to trade survival time for improved QoL. This proportion increased over time (Month 12: 85%, Month 18: 87%, P < 0.001). In multivariable analysis, willingness to trade survival time increased with age, female sex, a reduced Duke Activity Status Index, Geriatric Depression Score, and history of gout, exercise intolerance, constipation and oedema, but even combining these variables did not result in reliable prediction. Of 603 (97%) patients expressing their resuscitation preference, 51% wished resuscitation, 39% did not, and 10% were undecided, with little changes over time. In 430 patients resuscitation orders were known; they differed from patients' preferences 32% of the time. End-of-life preferences were not correlated to 18-month outcome.

Conclusion

Elderly HF patients are willing to address their end-of-life preferences. The majority prefers longevity over QoL and half wished resuscitation if necessary. Prediction of individual preferences was inaccurate. Trial Registration: isrctn.org Identifier: ISRCTN43596477

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