DOI: 10.1002/ejhf.2981 ISSN: 1388-9842

Palliative care in heart failure guidelines: A comparison of the 2021 ESC and the 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA guidelines on heart failure

Moritz Blum, Nathan E. Goldstein, Tiny Jaarsma, Larry A. Allen, Laura P. Gelfman
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


The role of palliative care for patients with heart failure (HF) is discussed in both most recent HF guidelines, the 2021 ESC guideline and the 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA guideline. This review compares the definitions, concepts and specific recommendations regarding palliative care for patients with HF in these two guidelines. Both HF guidelines define palliative care as a multidisciplinary approach aimed at alleviating physical, psychological and spiritual distress of patients and caregivers. Both agree emphatically on the importance of palliative care across all stages of HF with integration early in the illness trajectory. Also, the guidelines concur that palliative care should include symptom management, communication about prognosis and life‐sustaining therapies, as well as advance care planning. Despite this consensus, only the AHA/ACC/HFSA guideline gives official recommendations on the provision of palliative care. Moreover, the AHA/ACC/HFSA guideline advocates for a needs‐based approach to palliative care allocation while the ESC guideline ties palliative care closely to advanced HF and end‐of‐life care. The ESC guideline highlights the need for regular symptom assessment and provides detailed guidance on symptom management. The AHA/ACC/HFSA guideline elaborates further on shared decision‐making, caregiver and bereavement support, as well as hospice care, and distinguishes between primary palliative care (provided by all clinicians) and secondary (specialty‐level) palliative care. Although there is strong agreement on the importance and components of palliative care for patients with HF, there are nuanced differences between the two HF guidelines. Most notably, only the AHA/ACC/HFSA guideline issues recommendations for the provision of palliative care.

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