State of the Science in Heart Failure Symptom Perception Research: An Integrative Review

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Abstract

Background:

Heart failure (HF) is a common condition requiring self-care to maintain physical stability, prevent hospitalization, and improve quality of life. Symptom perception, a domain of HF self-care newly added to the Situation-Specific Theory of HF Self-Care, is defined as a comprehensive process of monitoring and recognizing physical sensations and interpreting and labeling the meaning of the sensations.

Objective:

The purpose of this integrative review was to describe the research conducted on HF symptom perception to further understanding of this new concept.

Method:

A literature search was conducted using 8 databases. The search term of HF was combined with symptom, plus symptom perception subconcepts of monitoring, somatic awareness, detection, recognition, interpretation, and appraisal. Only peer-reviewed original articles published in English with full-text availability were included. No historical limits were imposed. Study subjects were adults. Twenty-one studies met the inclusion criteria. Each study was categorized into either symptom monitoring or symptom recognition and interpretation.

Results:

Although daily weighing and HF-related symptom–monitoring behaviors were insufficient in HF patients, use of a symptom diary improved HF self-care, symptom distress and functional class, and decreased mortality, hospital stay, and medical costs. Most HF patients had trouble recognizing an exacerbation of symptoms. Aging, comorbid conditions, and gradual symptom progression made it difficult to recognize and correctly interpret a symptom exacerbation. Living with others, higher education, higher uncertainty, shorter symptom duration, worse functional class, and an increased number of previous hospitalizations were positively associated with symptom recognition.

Conclusions:

Existing research fails to capture all of the elements in the theoretical definition of symptom perception.

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