Cardiac impairment or heart failure?: “Impairment” is no less alarming or confusing than “failure”

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7516.577-a (Published 08 September 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:577
  1. Atef Michael, specialist registrar (a.michael2{at}ukonline.co.uk)
  1. Queen's Hospital, Burton on Trent DE15 0AR

    EDITOR—Lehman et al consider the term “heart failure” to be imprecise and confusing, preferring “cardiac impairment.”1

    However, the term “cardiac impairment” is as vague and blurred. It is not more descriptive or less confusing. Impairment also covers a wide spectrum or continuum. Paradoxically, it may not reflect the seriousness of the diagnosis, especially in late stages of heart failure when the prognosis may be more serious than that for many malignancies.

    Whatever term is used, doctors can avoid confusion by explaining that failure, like many things in life and medicine, is a spectrum, and it does not mean the end. Also patients should be given time and encouragement to ask questions and air fears and concerns.


    • Competing interests None declared.


    1. 1.
    View Abstract

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription