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Minerva Medica 2009 February;100(1):39-50


language: English

DEFEAT - Heart Failure: a guide to management of geriatric heart failure by generalist physicians

Ahmed A.

Departments of Medicine and Epidemiology School of Medicine and Public Health Geriatric Heart Failure Clinics University of Alabama at Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center Birmingham, AL, USA


Over 80% of all heart failure patients are 65 years and older. The diagnosis and management of heart failure in older adults can be challenging. However, with the correct clinical skill and experience, most geriatric heart failure can be properly diagnosed and managed. Management of geriatric heart failure can be simplified by following this useful mnemonic: DEFEAT – Heart Failure. This covers the essential aspects of geriatric heart failure management: Diagnosis, Etiology, Fluid, Ejection fraAction, and Treatment. The process begins with a clinical Diagnosis, which must be established, before ordering an echocardiogram, as nearly half of all geriatric heart failure patients have normal left ventricular ejection fraction. Because heart failure is a syndrome and not a disease, an underlying Etiology must be sought and determined. Determination of the Fluid volume status by careful examination of the external jugular veins in the neck is vital to achieve euvolemia. An echocardiography should be ordered to obtain left ventricular Ejection frAction to assess prognosis and guide Therapy. However, if left ventricular ejection fraction cannot be determined, as in many developing nations, all geriatric heart failure patients should be treated as if they have low ejection fraction, and should be prescribed an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor and a beta-blocker. Diuretic and digoxin should be prescribed for all symptomatic patients with heart failure. An aldosterone antagonist may be used in select patients with advanced systolic heart failure, carefully avoiding hyperkalemia.

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