First-year cardiovascular diseases fellow Haider Javed Warraich, MD, writes about failing patients with heart failure in an opinion piece in today's New York Times.
"All heart disease, as it progresses, results in heart failure, or a gradual weakening of the heart. Patients commonly experience difficult breathing, extreme fatigue and swelling of their legs and abdomen. Heart failure is the leading cause of hospital admissions among those older than 65 years of age annually.
And yet these patients rarely get high-quality end-of-life care, in part because it is so hard to predict how individual cases will play out. The heart weakens slowly, over years, followed by sudden death from abnormal cardiac rhythms or from progressive failure of its pumping function. There is great variation in survival from patient to patient; death can occur days to decades after the initial diagnosis."