Acute heart failure - NICE guideline

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This quality standard covers the care of adults (aged 18 years or older) who have a diagnosis of acute heart failure or are being investigated for acute heart failure.

Why this quality standard is needed

Acute heart failure refers to the rapid onset of a clinical syndrome where the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to provide for the needs of the body. It is caused by dysfunction of the heart due to muscle damage (systolic or diastolic dysfunction), valvular dysfunction, arrhythmias or other rare causes. Acute heart failure can present as new‑onset heart failure in people without known cardiac dysfunction, or as acute decompensation of chronic heart failure.

Acute heart failure is a common cause of admission to hospital (over 67,000 admissions in England and Wales a year) and is the leading cause of hospital admission in people 65 years or older in the UK.

[Acute heart failure] is the leading cause of hospital admission in people 65 years or older in the UK.

The quality standard is expected to contribute to improvements in the following outcomes:

  • mortality rates
  • incidence of major cardiovascular events (non‑fatal myocardial infarction, stroke)
  • length of hospital stay
  • readmission rates
  • incidence of adverse events (withdrawal of beta‑blockers and other disease‑modifying drugs)
  • quality of life.

How this quality standard supports delivery of outcome frameworks

NICE quality standards are a concise set of prioritised statements designed to drive measurable improvements in the three dimensions of quality – patient safety, patient experience and clinical effectiveness – for a particular area of health or care. They are derived from high‑quality guidance, such as that from NICE or other sources accredited by NICE.

This quality standard, in conjunction with the guidance on which it is based, should contribute to the improvements outlined in the following two outcomes frameworks published by the Department of Health:

You can read the guideline on NICE's website.