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JOURNAL ARTICLE

"Why Would I Choose Death?": A Qualitative Study of Patient Understanding of the Role and Limitations of Cardiac Devices

Rachel A Hadler, Nathan E Goldstein, David B Bekelman, Barbara Riegel, Larry A Allen, Robert M Arnold, Matthew E Harinstein, Dio Kavalieratos
Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing 2019 February 16
30789490

BACKGROUND: Although cardiology organizations recommend early introduction of palliative care for patients with heart failure (HF), integration has remained challenging, particularly in patients with cardiac devices such as cardiac implantable electronic devices and left ventricular assist devices. Study authors suggest that patients often have limited and erroneous understanding of these devices and their implications for future care.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to assess perceptions of cardiac devices in patients with HF and how these perceptions impacted advance care planning and future expectations.

METHODS: This study used qualitative semistructured interviews with 18 community-dwelling patients with New York Heart Association stage II to IV HF.

RESULTS: We interviewed 18 patients (mean ejection fraction, 38%; mean age, 64 years; 33% female; 83% white; 39% New York Heart Association class II, 39% class III, and 22% class IV). All had a cardiac implantable electronic device (6% permanent pacemaker, 56% implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, 28% biventricular implantable cardioverter-defibrillator); 11% had left ventricular assist devices. Patients with devices frequently misunderstood the impact of their device on cardiac function. A majority expressed the belief that the device would forestall further deterioration, regardless of whether this was the case. This anticipation of stability was often accompanied by the expectation that emerging technologies would continue to preempt decline. Citing this faith in technology, these patients frequently saw limited value in advance care planning.

CONCLUSIONS: In our sample, patients with cardiac devices overestimated the impact of their devices on preventing disease progression and death and deprioritized advance care planning as a result.

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