Thirst in Patients with Heart Failure : Description of thirst dimensions and associated factors with thirst
Abstract: Introduction: Nurses and other health care professionals meet patients with heart failure (HF) who report they are thirsty. Thirst is described by the patients as a concern, and it is distressing. Currently there are no standardized procedures to identify patients with increased thirst or to help a patient to manage troublesome thirst and research in the area of thirst is scarce. In order to prevent and relieve troublesome thirst more knowledge is needed on how thirst is experienced and what factors cause increased thirst.Aim: The aim of this thesis was to describe the thirst experience of patients with HF and describe the relationship of thirst with physiologic, psychologic and situational factors. The goal was to contribute to the improvement of the care by identifying needs and possible approaches to prevent and relieve thirst in patients with HF.Methods: The studies in this thesis used a cross-sectional design (Study I) and prospective observational designs (II-IV). Studies include data from patients with HF who were admitted to the emergency department for deterioration in HF (I, IV) or visited an outpatient HF clinic for worsening of HF symptoms (III); others were patients who were following up after HF hospitalization (II), and patients with no HF diagnosis who sought care at the emergency department for other illness (I). Patients completed questionnaires on thirst intensity, thirst distress, HF self-care behaviour, feeling depressive and feeling anxious. Data on sociodemographic, clinical characteristics, pharmacological treatment and prescribed fluid restriction were retrieved from hospital medical records and by asking the patients. Data were also collected from blood, urine and saliva samples to measure biological markers of dehydration, HF severity and stress.Results: Thirst was prevalent in 1 out of 5 patients (II) and 63% of patients with worsening of HF symptoms experienced moderate to severe thirst distress at hospital admission (IV). Patients at an outpatient HF clinic who reported thirst at the first visit were more often thirsty at the follow-up visits compared to patients who did not report thirst at the first visit (II). Thirst intensity was significantly higher in patients hospitalized with decompensated HF compared to patients with no HF (median 75 vs. 25 mm, visual analogue scale [VAS] 0-100 mm; P < 0.001) (I). During optimization of pharmacological treatment of HF, thirst intensity increased in 67% of the patients. Thirst intensity increased significantly more in patients in the high thirst intensity group compared to patients in the low thirst intensity group (median +18 mm vs. -3 mm; P < 0.001) (III). Patients who were admitted to the hospital with high thirst distress continued to have high thirst distress over time (IV). A large number of patients were bothered by thirst and feeling dry in the mouth when they were thirsty (III, IV). Patients with a fluid restriction had high thirst distress over time and patients who were feeling depressed had high thirst intensity over time (IV). Thirst was associated with fluid restriction (III-IV), a higher serum urea (IIIII), and depressive symptoms (II).Conclusions: A considerable amount of patients with HF experiences thirst intensity and thirst distress. Patients who reported thirst at the first follow-up more often had thirst at the subsequent follow-ups. The most important factors related to thirst intensity or thirst distress were a fluid restriction, a higher plasma urea, and depressive symptoms. Nurses should ask patients with HF if they are thirsty and measure the thirst intensity and thirst distress, and ask if thirst is bothering them. Each patient should be critically evaluated if a fluid restriction really is needed, if the patient might be dehydrated or needs to be treated for depression.
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