The impact of palliative care on clinical and patient‐centred outcomes in patients with advanced heart failure: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials
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AIMS: To examine the impact of palliative care on acute care hospitalizations, survival, symptoms, and quality of life (QOL) in patients with advanced heart failure. METHODS AND RESULTS: We conducted a systematic search of publications through CENTRAL, CINAHL, EMBASE, and MEDLINE originally up to July 2017, and then updated to June 2019. The study was registered (PROSPERO ID: CRD42017069685) prior to its initiation. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included that tested an interdisciplinary palliative care intervention (compared to usual care) primarily in a heart failure population. Main outcomes assessed were hospitalizations, mortality, QOL, and symptom burden. Ten independent RCTs were selected, representing a total of 1050 participants (921 with a diagnosis of heart failure). Compared with usual care, palliative care interventions were associated with a substantial reduction in hospitalizations [odds ratio 0.56 (0.33-0.94); four trials; I2 = 27%], modest improvement in QOL [standardized mean difference (SMD) 0.25; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.06-0.45; seven trials; I2 = 15%], and modest reduction in symptom burden (SMD -0.29; 95% CI -0.54-0.03; three trials; I2 = 15%). There was no clear adverse impact on mortality. Most studies had methodological limitations that increased the risk of biases. CONCLUSION: Compared to usual care, palliative care interventions substantially reduce hospitalizations, with no clear adverse effect on survival. Effects on QOL and symptom burden appear to be modest, and indicate that further efforts to improve these patient centred outcomes are needed.
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