US researchers studied 122 ambulatory patients with heart failure to assess their personal life expectancy predictions. They then compared the results with clinical predictions, calculated using the Seattle Heart Failure Model (SHFM).
The researchers found that 63% of the patients studied over-estimated how long they would live. They said younger patients, those with more severe disease and those that were the least depressed were the most likely to over-estimate their remaining life span.
The researchers added that the average patient-predicted life expectancy was 13 years, an over estimation of around 40% when compared with the SHFM.
The authors said: ‘The exact reasons for this incongruity are unknown but they may reflect hope or may result from inadequate communication between clinicians and their patients about prognosis.
‘Because differences in expectations about prognosis could affect decision making regarding advanced therapies and end-of-life planning, further research into both the extent and the underlying causes of these differences is warranted,’ they added.
Journal of the American Medical Association (2008) 299: 2533-2542