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congestive heart failure
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chronic conditions
Elderly Patients With Chronic Heart Failure May Not Prefer To Be Symptom Free If It Shortens Their Life
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Elderly Patients With Chronic Heart Failure May Not Prefer to Be Symptom Free If it Shortens Their Life

Doctors often assume that people who are faced with chronic conditions would prefer to be free from their disease and its symptoms even if it shortened their life. But, new Swiss based research may shock those doctors, especially when it comes to their geriatric patients facing certain types of heart related, chronic conditions. It may also change the way doctors talk to their patients about their end of life decisions.

Dr. Hans Peter Brunner La Rocca of the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland just published research that may change the way doctors approach their patients that are in their seventies or older and have a chronic condition called congest heart failure. (CHF) That condition affects an estimated six million Americans. Other conditions, including heart disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes may increase the risk of congestive heart failure. Symptoms include shortness of breath and chronic fatigue, weakness and swelling in the legs and feet. In the elderly, some of these symptoms can be disregarded or overlooked simply because of their age.

Dr. La Rocca interviewed more than five hundred elderly patients, all of whom had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The interviews asked a number of questions related to health, quality of life and how they felt about the symptoms that they were dealing with- questions that were repeated at six months and then again later. When asked if they could live without the symptoms of their disease for a slightly shorter period of time or live for longer but still have to deal with them, it was a shocking number of people that picked the longer life over quality of life.Of those surveyed, seventy five percent chose the longer life even though it meant that they would continue to deal with their symptoms. The number increased slightly at the second and third round of interviews rather than decreasing.

During the interviews, La Rocca also discovered that a number of the patients had do not resuscitate orders in their medical files but when asked about specific actions, such as the use of a defibrillator or heart stimulating drugs, they said that that such actions should be used.

Women were more likely to ask for the longer life by a small degree although the study did not break results down by gender. As the disease progresses, more and more frequent hospitalizations become the norm. Some times, medications can slow the progression of the disease and allow the patient to remain out of the hospital.


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