Heart failure is becoming an increasing concern to healthcare worldwide. It is the only cardiovascular disorder that continues to increase in both prevalence and incidence, and as the population continues to age, it is expected that the prevalence of this disease will continue to rise. Guidelines on diagnosis and treatment of heart failure are to be met. Most patients with heart failure will present themselves in general practice. Therefore, the community management of heart failure has become increasingly important and the role of General Practitioners even more crucial. Improving the reliability of diagnosis in primary care is essential since determining the aetiology and stage of heart failure leads to different management choices to improve symptoms, quality of life and disease prognosis. Furthermore, early diagnosis is needed, when there may be no symptoms, since treatment can delay or reverse disease progression. Diagnostic methods may therefore need to encompass screening strategies, as well as symptomatic case identification, in the future. General Practitioners must make correct decisions regarding appropriate further investigation, treatment and referral. A correct diagnosis is the cornerstone leading to effective management. The aim of this paper is to review the role of symptoms and signs and diagnostic tests, such as, chest X-ray, ECG, natriuretic peptides and echocardiography, for diagnosing heart failure in the primary care setting. Improving diagnostic skills remains a continuous challenge for clinicians. Simple and reliable diagnostic procedures are crucial to comply with Guidelines and reduce healthcare utilisation and costs.
- Heart failure
- Primary care