Aims To evaluate the feasibility of a nurse-monitored, outpatient-care program for elderly patients previously hospitalized with chronic heart failure.

Methods and results Patients with chronic heart failure hospitalized in the medical wards were screened to find those eligible for a randomized study to compare the effect of a nurse-monitored, outpatient-care programme aiming at symptom management, with conventional care. The inclusion criteria were patients classified in New York Heart Association classes III–IV, age 65 years, and eligi-bility for an outpatient follow-up programme. The total in-hospital population of patients discharged with a heart-failure diagnosis was surveyed. Eighty-nine per cent of all the hospitalized patients (n=1541) were 65 years old. Of these, 69% (n=1058) were treated in the medical wards which were screened. The study criteria were met by 158 patients (15%). No visits to the nurse occurred in 23 cases among the 79 patients randomized to the structured-care group (29%), mainly on account of death or fatigue. The numbers of hospitalizations and hospital days did not differ between the structured-care and the usual-care groups.

Conclusions Given the selection criteria and the outline of the interventions, the outpatient, nurse-monitored, symptom-management programme was not feasible for the majority of these elderly patients with moderate-to-severe, chronic heart failure, mainly because of the small proportion of eligible patients and the high drop-out rate. Management of these patients would have to be more adjusted to their home situation.


Correspondence: Dr Björn Fagerberg Department of Medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, S-413 45 Göteborg, Sweden.