Due to a relative lack of outpatient heart failure (HF) clinical registries, we aimed to describe symptoms, signs, and medication treatment among ambulatory patients with heart failure (HF) over time.
Using health records from 234 PINNACLE (Practice Innovation and Clinical Excellence) U.S. cardiology practices (2008–2014), serial visits for patients with HF were characterized. Symptoms, signs, and HF medications (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors [ACEI], angiotensin receptor blockers [ARB], beta blockers [BB], and diuretics) were compared between visits.
Among 763,331 patients with HF, 550,581 had ≥2 clinic visits < 1 year apart, with 2,998,444 visit pairs. In the 12 months following an index visit, patients had a mean of 2.5 ± 2.3 additional visits. Recorded index visit symptoms ranged from dyspnea (53.6%) to orthopnea (23.1%); signs ranged from peripheral edema (52.2%) to hepatomegaly (0.6%). Of those with ejection fraction < 40%, ACEI was prescribed in 58.6%, ARB in 18.5%, BB in 85.2%, and diuretics in 70.0%. Between-visit recorded changes were infrequent: dyspnea appeared in 3.8%, resolved in 2.7%; NYHA class increased in 2.9%, decreased in 2.9%; number of signs increased in 6.0%, decreased in 5.1%; ACEI/ARB or BB added in 6.4%, removed in 6.2%; diuretic added in 3.7%, removed in 3.8%. Changes in recorded symptoms were rarely associated with initiation or discontinuation in HF medication classes.
Ambulatory HF care in U.S. cardiology practices seldom recorded changes in symptoms, signs, and medication class. Although templated medical records and absence of medication dosing likely underestimated the degree to which clinical changes occur over serial visits for HF, these PINNACLE data suggest opportunities for greater symptom-based and therapy-focused visits.