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Heart Failure Patients Overestimate Their Life Expectancy
Date:6/3/2008

Statistical survey indicates doctors need to be more clear in explaining realities

TUESDAY, June 3, (HealthDay News) -- For reasons not easily understood, many patients with the worst type of heart disease think they will live longer than their doctors tell them they will, new research shows.

Very carefully, cardiologists at Duke University began telling people being treated for heart failure -- the progressive loss of ability to pump blood -- that the condition would shorten their lives. They weren't believed.

Instead, many patients preferred to believe that they would have the normal life span expected of men their age, according to a report on this unusual bit of research, published in the June 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Life expectancy for people with heart failure is on average as bad or worse than for patients with cancer, said study author Dr. Larry A. Allen, a clinical instructor in cardiology. "The expectation is just four to five years with symptomatic heart failure, and those we see in the specialty clinic do even worse," he said.

It's hard for most people to face the truth about heart failure. "My general impression is that many of these patients don't comprehend how serious their illness is and how it might affect their survival," Allen said.

According to U.S. government statistics, about 5 million people in the United States have heart failure, and it results in about 300,000 deaths each year.

Pressing home the truth is important because "misperceptions about survival can hinder patients from making rational decisions about medical therapy and the end of life," Allen said.

So, he and his colleagues used the somewhat new Seattle Heart Failure Model to make predictions about 122 people being treated for heart failure, and to tell them the life span predicted by the model, which gives a fairly detailed description of what a
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