Impact of a Psychological Biofeedback-Relaxation Intervention on Clinical, Physical and Psychological Outcomes in Patients With Heart Failure

2014-07-23 21:47:02 | BioPortfolio


The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of biofeedback-relaxation combined with cognitive behavioral therapy on clinical, physical and psychological outcomes in patients with heart failure.


The long-term aim of this program of research is to improve physical and psychological health outcomes of adults with heart failure (HF). The specific aims of the randomized, controlled clinical trial are to test the effects of biofeedback-relaxation therapy in HF patients on rehospitalizations, cardiac mortality and quality of life, and on the secondary end-points of perceived control, anxiety, depression, skin temperature, plasma norepinephrine levels, and heart rate variability (HRV).

In the 1990s, HF emerged as a significant public health threat and reached epidemic proportions. Heart failure incidence and prevalence are expected to increase worldwide, and its impact to worsen dramatically. Individuals with HF suffer incapacitating physical symptoms, emotional distress, impaired quality of life, repeated rehospitalizations, and premature death. To combat the rising HF epidemic, it is crucial that researchers study new strategies to improve outcomes. Despite its potential as an effective partner to drug therapy, the role of nonpharmacologic intervention in HF management has received relatively little attention.

One may argue that drug therapy is effective enough that resources need not be expended on research of nonpharmacologic therapies. However, three points argue against this stance. First, despite substantial advances made in HF treatment with drug therapy, morbidity and mortality remain unacceptably high. As Kannel states, "innovations in treatment of...HF have thus far made a disappointingly small improvement in its…outlook". Second, although drug therapy frequently provides significant improvement in symptoms and functional ability, quality of life may not improve. This outcome is important for patients with HF because poorer quality of life independently predicts morbidity and mortality. Third, nonpharmacologic strategies can have effect sizes for important HF outcomes (e.g., rehospitalization rates/mortality and quality of life) that are similar to those seen with drug therapy. Recent studies demonstrated these therapies substantially improve outcomes beyond the level seen in the same patients with pharmacologic therapy.

Biofeedback-relaxation therapy is an innovative and promising nonpharmacologic strategy. An optimally effective treatment should have a beneficial effect on both pathophysiological and psychological manifestations of the target condition. This goal is especially important for a condition like HF, which has a profoundly negative impact on physical and psychological function. Hallmark pathophysiology in HF includes intense neurohumoral activation, initiated and sustained by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), with marked vasoconstriction. Adverse psychological manifestations of chronic HF include feelings of loss of control, anxiety and depression. Both neurohumoral activation and the psychological consequences of HF contribute to poor quality of life, frequent HF hospitalizations, and increased mortality. As shown in the model in Figure 1, biofeedback-relaxation therapy takes three complementary, but separate pathways to improve outcomes. This biobehavioral therapy decreases SNS activation (as reflected by HRV and plasma norepinephrine), produces stress reduction (as reflected by changes in perceived control, anxiety and depression), and results in vasodilation (as reflected by skin temperature). Biofeedback-relaxation therapy can have a powerful influence because of these separate, yet complementary effects. For example, SNS activation is directly decreased by biofeedback-relaxation therapy, but also indirectly as a result of stress reduction with increased control, and decreased anxiety and depression. As a result of its physical and psychological effects, biofeedback-relaxation could have a clinically meaningful impact on rehospitalizations, survival and quality of life. For these reasons, biofeedback-relaxation may be an effective adjunct to pharmacologic therapy in the management of HF. Thus, the purpose of the proposed research is to examine the impact of biofeedback-relaxation training on HF patient outcomes.

Study Design

Allocation: Randomized, Control: Placebo Control, Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment, Masking: Single Blind (Outcomes Assessor), Primary Purpose: Treatment


Heart Failure


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Attention Placebo


University of Kentucky
United States


Active, not recruiting


National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2014-07-23T21:47:02-0400

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Medical and Biotech [MESH] Definitions

A direct form of psychotherapy based on the interpretation of situations (cognitive structure of experiences) that determine how an individual feels and behaves. It is based on the premise that cognition, the process of acquiring knowledge and forming beliefs, is a primary determinant of mood and behavior. The therapy uses behavioral and verbal techniques to identify and correct negative thinking that is at the root of the aberrant behavior.

A heterogeneous condition in which the heart is unable to pump out sufficient blood to meet the metabolic need of the body. Heart failure can be caused by structural defects, functional abnormalities (VENTRICULAR DYSFUNCTION), or a sudden overload beyond its capacity. Chronic heart failure is more common than acute heart failure which results from sudden insult to cardiac function, such as MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION.

Contextually focused form of cognitive behavioral psychotherapy that uses MINDFULNESS and behavioral activation to increase patients' psychological flexibility in areas such as ability to engage in values-based, positive behaviors while experiencing difficult thoughts, emotions, or sensations.

Enlargement of the HEART, usually indicated by a cardiothoracic ratio above 0.50. Heart enlargement may involve the right, the left, or both HEART VENTRICLES or HEART ATRIA. Cardiomegaly is a nonspecific symptom seen in patients with chronic systolic heart failure (HEART FAILURE) or several forms of CARDIOMYOPATHIES.

Heart failure caused by abnormal myocardial contraction during SYSTOLE leading to defective cardiac emptying.

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