• cardiovascular;
  • heart failure;
  • patient education;
  • randomised controlled trial;
  • systematic review


Objective  The objective of this systematic review is to identify educational content and techniques that lead to successful patient self-management and improved outcomes in congestive heart failure education programs.

Methods  MEDLINE, CINAHL and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, as well as reference lists of included studies and relevant reviews, were searched. Eligible studies were randomised controlled trials evaluating congestive heart failure self-management education programs with outcome measures. Two of the investigators independently abstracted descriptive information, education content topics and outcomes data.

Results  A total of 7413 patients participated in the 35 eligible congestive heart failure self-management education studies. The congestive heart failure self-management programs incorporated 20 education topics in four categories: (i) knowledge and self-management (diagnosis and prognosis, pathophysiology of how congestive heart failure affects the body, aims of treatment, management and symptoms, medication review and discussion of side-effects, knowing when to access/call the general practitioner, communication with the physician, follow up for assessment or reinforcement); (ii) social interaction and support (social interaction and support, stress, depression); (iii) fluids management (sodium restriction, fluid balance, daily measurement of weight, ankle circumference, self-monitoring and compliance relative to fluids); and (iv) diet and activity (dietary assessment and instructions, physical activity and exercise, alcohol intake, smoking cessation). A total of 113 unique outcomes in nine categories (satisfaction, learning, behaviour, medications, clinical status, social functioning, mortality, medical resource utilisation and cost) were measured in the studies. Sixty (53%) of the outcomes showed significant improvement in at least one study.

Conclusion  Educational interventions should be based on scientifically sound research evidence. The education topic list developed in this review can be used by patients and clinicians to prioritise and personalise education.