Symptom cluster among patients with advanced heart failure: a review of its manifestations and impacts on health outcomes

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Purpose of review

Assessment of symptom clustering is effective in enhancing care planning for symptom palliation in life-limiting disease. This review was aimed at identifying symptom cluster manifestation among advanced heart failure patients and to investigate the prognostic impact of the identified symptom clusters.

Recent findings

A systematic search of the literature identified 10 relevant articles. Two approaches were undertaken based on: correlations between symptoms and shared characteristics of patients’ symptom profiles, to identify the symptom clusters. By comparing the findings for heart failure patients at an advanced disease stage and those who were not, the symptom clusters of advanced heart failure were found to have unique characteristics. In particular, the typical symptoms associated with cardiac decompensation are not clustered together. Instead, dyspnoea is clustered with emotional symptoms indicating that a distressing dyspnoeic attack may reinforce awareness of the life-limiting nature of the disease and arouse negative emotions. In addition, the debilitating heart failure-specific symptoms share the cause of the life-limiting aspects in compromising patient vitality. The strong positive association between symptom burden and cardiac event prompts the need for effective intervention to palliate not only typical but also atypical and emotional symptoms of advanced heart failure.


This review provides insight on potentially effective interventions for symptom palliation in advanced heart failure.

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