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Although dyspnoea is the most common cause of admission for acute heart failure (AHF), more needs to be known about its clinical course and prognostic significance.The Pre-RELAX-AHF study randomized 232 subjects with AHF to placebo or four doses of relaxin and evaluated early (6–24 h Likert scale) and persistent [change in visual analogue scale area under the curve (VAS AUC) through Day 5] dyspnoea relief. Worsening heart failure (WHF) was defined as worsening AHF signs and symptoms requiring additional therapy. Patients were followed until Day 180. Early dyspnoea relief was observed in only 25% of all patients, and VAS AUC at 5 days was 45% over baseline values in all patients (32% placebo; 50% all relaxin-treated patients). Worsening heart failure to Day 5 was observed in 16% of all patients (21% placebo; 14% relaxin). Lack of persistent dyspnoea relief and WHF were associated with a longer length of initial hospital stay and worse 60-day outcomes.Dyspnoea relief in patients admitted with AHF is often incomplete, and many may show WHF after the initial stabilization. Both lack of persistent dyspnoea relief and in-hospital WHF predict a longer length of stay and worse outcome.