Exploring the prevalence, impact and experience of cardiac cachexia in patients with advanced heart failure and their caregivers: a sequential phased study

Matthew A Carson, Joanne Reid, Loreena Hill, Lana Dixon, Patrick Donnelly, Paul Slater, Alyson Hill, Susan E Piper, Theresa A McDonagh, Donna Fitzsimons*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Cardiac Cachexia is a wasting syndrome that has a significant impact on patient mortality and quality of life world-wide, although it is poorly understood in clinical practice.

Identify the prevalence of cardiac cachexia in patients with advanced New York Heart Association (NYHA) functional class and explore its impact on patients and caregivers.

An exploratory cross-sectional study. The sequential approach had two phases, with phase 1 including 200 patients with NYHA III-IV heart failure assessed for characteristics of cardiac cachexia. Phase 2 focussed on semi-structured interviews with eight cachectic patients and five caregivers to ascertain the impact of the syndrome.

Two healthcare trusts within the United Kingdom.

Cardiac Cachexia was identified in 30 out of 200 participants, giving a prevalence rate of 15%. People with cachexia had a significantly reduced average weight and anthropometric measures (p < 0.05). Furthermore, individuals with cachexia experienced significantly more fatigue, had greater issues with diet and appetite, reduced physical wellbeing and overall reduced quality of life. C-reactive protein was significantly increased, whilst albumin and red blood cell count were significantly decreased in the cachectic group (p < 0.05). From qualitative data, four key themes were identified: (1) ‘Changed relationship with food and eating’, (2) ‘Not me in the mirror’, (3) ‘Lack of understanding regarding cachexia’ and (4) ‘Uncertainty regarding the future’.

Cardiac cachexia has a debilitating effect on patients and caregivers. Future work should focus on establishing a specific definition and clinical pathway to enhance patient and caregiver support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1118-1128
Number of pages11
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number7
Early online date21 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Prevalence
  • sequential phased
  • qualitative
  • Humans
  • Caregivers
  • Heart Failure - complications
  • Cachexia - epidemiology - etiology
  • quantitative
  • Quality of Life
  • Cachexia
  • caregiver
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • prevalence
  • heart failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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