"We examined the effect of education and counseling by heart failure nurses on adherence to nonpharmacologic treatments, because these are so important to the patients' survival," Martje H.L. van der Wal, a cardiology nurse researcher at the University of Groningen and lead author reports.
The study, which spanned 18 months, looked at 1,023 heart failure patients, of average age 71 and treated at 17 hospitals. The patients were divided into three groups:
The first (control) group received mandatory care, which included regular visits to their cardiologist.
The second group (basic support) got basic education and counseling from a specialized heart failure nurse. These patients saw the nurse every three months at the heart failure clinic and could call the nurse with questions if their condition worsened.
The third group (intensive support) received intensive counseling and education from a heart failure nurse. They had contact with the nurse at least once a month, including one or more home visits. These patients also got advice from a dietician, social worker and physiotherapist.
The study finds were that 90 percent of patients in the support groups adhered to their fluid restriction, compared to 67 percent before the start of the study. There was no change in the control group.
It was also seen that 90 percent of patients in the support groups adhered to heart failure diet restrictions, as against 75 percent before the start of the study.
89 percent of patients in the intensive support group and 79 percent of patients in the basic support group weighed themselves regularly as against with 56 percent of patients in the control group.
The researchers also found that more patients in the support groups now knew the important symptoms of worsening heart failure and when to call health-care providers.
"Support from a heart failure nurse can help patients cope with the difficult and complex regimen they have for their heart failure and to incorporate the regimen into their daily lives," van der Wal avers.
The study was presented Monday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.