Practices of Referring Patients to Advanced Heart Failure Centers

IDEAL-HF investigators

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Therapies for advanced heart failure (AHF) improve the likelihood of survival in a growing population of patients with stage D heart failure (HF). Successful implementation of these therapies is dependent upon timely and appropriate referrals to AHF centers. Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of patients referred to 9 AHF centers for evaluation for AHF therapies. Patients’ demographics, referring providers’ characteristics, referral circumstances, and evaluation outcomes were collected. Results: The majority of referrals (n = 515) were male (73.4%), and a majority of those were in the advanced state of the disease: very low left ventricular ejection fraction (<20% in 51.5%); 59.4% inpatient; and high risk Interagency Registry for Mechanically Assisted Circulatory Support (INTERMACS) profiles (74.5% profile 1–3). HF cardiologists (49.1%) were the most common originating referral source; the least common (4.9%) were electrophysiologists. Common clinical triggers for referral included worsening HF (30.0%), inotrope dependence (19.6%), hospitalization (19.4%), and cardiogenic shock (17.8%). Most commonly, AHF therapies were not offered because patients were too sick (38.0%–45.1%) or for psychosocial reasons (20.3%–28.6%). Compared to non-HF cardiologists, patients referred by HF cardiologists were offered an AHF therapy more often (66.8% vs 58.4%, P = 0.0489). Of those not offered any AHF therapy, 28.4% received home inotropic therapy, and 14.5% were referred to hospice. Conclusions: In this multicenter review of AHF referrals, HF cardiologists referred the most patients despite being a relatively small proportion of the overall clinician population. Late referral was prevalent in this high-risk patient population and correlates with worsened outcomes, suggesting a significant need for broad clinician education regarding the benefits, triggers and appropriate timing of referral to AHF centers for optimal patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1251-1259
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cardiac Failure
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Heart failure
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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