Managing the Effects of Cardiac Cachexia

Heather Carlson, ANP-BC, ACHPN; Constance M. Dahlin, MSN, ANP-BC, ACHPN, FPCN, FAAN


Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing. 2014;16(1):15-20. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Although cachexia is common in cancer, it is poorly understood in noncancer diagnoses. This article reviews cancer cachexia in cardiac disease. The definition, pathophysiology, and assessment specific to cardiac disease are delineated. Diagnostic workup is discussed. Finally, pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions are offered.


Cardiac cachexia is a symptom sequela of advanced heart failure that was identified thousands of years ago. Around 400 BC, Hippocrates first described cardiac cachexia in Greek citizens suffering from a condition in which "the flesh is consumed and becomes water, …the shoulders, clavicles, chest, and thighs melt away… the illness is fatal.[1] Although science has advanced since Hippocrates' observations, the occurrence of cardiac cachexia still remains poorly understood.