Background: Heart failure (HF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) share a common organ failure trajectory marked by prognostic uncertainty, which is a barrier to appropriate provision of palliative care. We describe in a prospective cohort from specialist hospital services the epidemiology and late clinical course of these chronic diseases to trace criteria for transition to palliative care in the community.Methods and results: Seven centers enrolled 267 patients with advanced HF (n = 174) or COPD (n = 93) using common (multiple hospitalizations or severely impaired functional status or cachexia) and disease-specific (HF: systolic dysfunction, NYHA classes III-IV, end-organ hypoperfusion; COPD: very severe airflow obstruction, hypoxemia, hypercapnia, or long-term oxygen therapy) entry criteria. These patients represented 7.2% and 13% respectively of the overall HF and COPD population hospitalized during one year. They showed similar symptom burden, functional and quality of life impairment, recurrent hospitalizations, and 6-month mortality (39% and 37%, respectively). Organ failure progression was the cause of death in N75%. In-hospital overall stay during the previous year was the main mortality predictor in both. Disease-specific predictors included anemia, hyponatremia, no beta-blockers in HF; older age, hypercapnia in COPD.Conclusions: Patients with advanced HF/COPD represent almost 10% of subjects hospitalized yearly with a primary diagnosis of HF or COPD, have similarly impaired functional status, disabling symptoms and reduced survival. Overall days spent in-hospital during the previous year, a "red flag" in the late clinical course of both diseases, might be used as a simple, reliable screening tool for appropriate transition to palliative care in the community. (C) 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
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