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© 2019, The Author(s). Background: Advance care planning is widely advocated to improve outcomes in end-of-life care for patients suffering from heart failure. But until now, there has been no systematic evaluation of the impact of advance care planning (ACP) on clinical outcomes. Our aim was to determine the effect of ACP in heart failure through a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Methods: We searched CINAHL, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Database of Systematic Reviews, Embase, ERIC, Ovid MEDLINE, Science Citation Index and PsycINFO (inception to July 2018). We selected RCTs including adult patients with heart failure treated in a hospital, hospice or community setting. Three reviewers independently screened studies, extracted data, assessed the risk of bias (Cochrane risk of bias tool) and evaluated the quality of evidence (GRADE tool) and analysed interventions according to the Template for Intervention Description and Replication (TIDieR). We calculated standardized mean differences (SMD) in random effects models for pooled effects using the generic inverse variance method. Results: Fourteen RCTs including 2924 participants met all of the inclusion criteria. There was a moderate effect in favour of ACP for quality of life (SMD, 0.38; 95% CI [0.09 to 0.68]), patients’ satisfaction with end-of-life care (SMD, 0.39; 95% CI [0.14 to 0.64]) and the quality of end-of-life communication (SMD, 0.29; 95% CI [0.17 to 0.42]) for patients suffering from heart failure. ACP seemed most effective if it was introduced at significant milestones in a patient’s disease trajectory, included family members, involved follow-up appointments and considered ethnic preferences. Several sensitivity analyses confirmed the statistically significant direction of effect. Heterogeneity was mainly due to different study settings, length of follow-up periods and compositions of ACP. Conclusions: ACP improved quality of life, patient satisfaction with end-of-life care and the quality of end-of-life communication for patients suffering from heart failure and could be most effective when the right timing, follow-up and involvement of important others was considered.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of General Internal Medicine

Publication Date





874 - 884