While there aren’t currently any cures for end stage heart failure, some treatments can relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Heart failure occurs when your heart is no longer able to pump enough blood to support your body’s needs. End stage heart failure is the final and most severe stage, during which you’re likely to experience symptoms even while at rest.
People with end stage heart failure often are no longer responsive to treatments that once worked for them and may be nearing the end of their life. As such, the treatments for end stage heart failure focus on easing symptoms and limiting hospitalizations and procedures.
This article considers the end stage symptoms of heart failure. We also discuss the life expectancy for individuals who reach end stage heart failure and consider ways to boost mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Finally, we discuss the possibility of enrolling in clinical trials.
According to a
- shortness of breath
- reduced exercise tolerance
- abdominal discomfort
- swelling or “edema”
- reduction in muscle size and strength
- heart arrhythmias
In end stage heart failure, there isn’t enough blood flow to support the major organs, such as your kidneys and liver. This can lead to further complications.
The 2017 review notes that people with end stage heart failure are likely to require frequent hospitalization. They may become intolerant to standard therapies for heart failure.
According to a 2018 review, the median life expectancy for individuals with a diagnosis of end stage heart failure is 6–12 months. During the last 6 months, a person is likely to require frequent hospital admissions and procedures.
Don’t forget your mental health
If you receive a diagnosis of end stage heart failure, you may be considering end-of-life care. This type of care focuses on providing both practical and emotional support.
- anxiety or depression
- difficulty adjusting to declines in physical and mental health
- agitation and restlessness
- existential concerns
- concerns about loved ones
Some people may also want to consider an end-of-life doula. This is a trained professional who helps provide companionship, comfort, and guidance to those who have a terminal illness or are nearing the end of their life.
Doulas focus on providing practical, emotional, and spiritual care. Some of their duties include:
- providing opportunities for people to speak openly about dying
- exploring the meaning of the person’s life and legacy
- supporting spiritual practices
- discussing and supporting end-of-life care
- assisting with practical care
- providing respite for caregivers
- guiding people through the early stages of grief
The International End of Life Doula Association provides a directory to help people find a doula in their state and local area.
Also, the American Psychological Association provides a list of resources for individuals who want to learn more about end-of-life issues and care.
Most treatments for end stage heart failure focus on providing symptom relief. Some common symptoms of end stage heart failure and their associated treatments include:
- breathlessness: oxygen, opioids, diuretics, or benzodiazepines
- chest pain: opioids and nitrates
- constipation: hydration and laxatives
- nausea and appetite loss: anti-sickness drugs
- insomnia: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for insomnia
- anxiety and depression: talking therapy or antidepressants
In some cases, there may still be therapies to pursue such as ventricular assist devices or heart transplants. These techniques may not be viable for everyone, but your cardiac team will have the best information.
Hospice is often recommended for those with end stage heart failure. Family caregivers may not be able to provide the level of care needed, but a hospice will be able to provide round-the-clock care from healthcare professionals.
Depending on the needs of your loved one, this care may be able to happen at home ― but some people may require inpatient care. Talk with a doctor to determine the right option for your family.
Trials for new heart failure treatments
Anyone who’s interested in taking part in clinical trials for new heart failure treatments should consider talking with their doctor. The doctor can access information on the latest clinical trials and will be able to help you decide if the trial is promising for you.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) website features a
You can also find listings of studies that are looking for participants at ClinicalTrails.gov.
End stage heart failure is the final and most severe stage of heart failure, during which time a person experiences symptoms, even while at rest. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, fatigue, and heart arrhythmias.
The life expectancy for individuals with end stage heart failure is around 6–12 months. During this time, a person may consider end-of-life care from a death doula. These are trained professionals who offer companionship to those with a terminal illness and provide practical, emotional, and spiritual support.
Although treatments are available for end stage heart failure, these focus only on alleviating symptoms. But, you can talk with a doctor to see if there are any upcoming clinical trials for new heart failure treatments and to find out about their eligibility.