Public Release: 

PATHS study explores need for palliative care in heart failure cases

Penn State

Less than 10 percent of people with heart failure receive supportive or palliative care beyond basic medical services, but a new research project, funded by a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute for Nursing Research to Penn State's School of Nursing, aims to change the situation.

Almost 6 million Americans live with heart failure, with a half-million new cases diagnosed each year. One in five heart failure patients will die within the first year of diagnosis. Eighty percent of these patients will die within eight years.

Palliative Care Algorithms for Heart Failure Dyads (PATHS) will explore the needs of heart failure patients and their primary family caregivers. The project seeks to "fill the gap in our knowledge about the experience of living with advanced heart failure in patient -- caregiver dyads," said principal investigator Judith E. Hupcey, associate dean for graduate education and associate professor of nursing, School of Nursing.

These dyads, or pairs, will be studied using the Seattle Heart Failure Model, a calculator of projected survival at baseline and after interventions for patients with heart failure. The patient-caregiver pairs--one group with a one-year life expectancy, another with a two-year life expectancy--will be interviewed to determine their needs for specific types of intervention.

After identifying critical variations in care needs, the investigators will develop an algorithm to guide targeted palliative care interventions for a variety of situations.

Lisa Kitko, assistant professor of nursing, is Hupcey's co-principal investigator for the study. Other investigators include John Boehmer, professor of medicine and surgery, Penn State College of Medicine, medical director of the Heart Failure Program at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and member of the Medical Center's Heart and Vascular Institute; and Margaret Kreher, associate professor of medicine and interim director of palliative medicine at the Medical Center.


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