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Alcohol use and congestive heart failure: incidence, importance, and approaches to improved history taking


Alcohol use, abuse, and dependence have the potential to result in alcoholic cardiomyopathy (ACM). This distinct form of congestive heart failure (CHF) is responsible for 21–36% of all cases of nonischemic dilated cardiomyopathy in Western society. Without complete abstinence, the 4-year mortality for ACM approaches 50%. Therefore, accurate and detailed assessment of alcohol use in congestive heart failure is essential. The prevalence of problematic alcohol use is unrecognized by many clinicians. Clinical assessment of alcohol intake is often reduced to a simple question such as, “Do you drink?” Denial and minimization are hallmarks of alcohol abuse, with many individuals underreporting their use of alcohol. Clinicians can overcome these hurdles by implementing practical history taking measures to improve the accuracy of self-reported alcohol use. The data regarding the dangers of ongoing alcohol use in individuals with ACM make attempts to engage individuals in treatment to support abstinence essential. Suggestions for detailed and accurate assessment are discussed.

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Matthew J. Steiner, MD, Nina A. Cooperman, Psy.D. for assistance with literature review and manuscript preparation. Funded by NHLBI contract # HC 25197.

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Correspondence to Christine E. Skotzko.

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Skotzko, C.E., Vrinceanu, A., Krueger, L. et al. Alcohol use and congestive heart failure: incidence, importance, and approaches to improved history taking. Heart Fail Rev 14, 51–55 (2009).

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