A systematic review of heart failure dyadic self-care interventions focusing on intervention components, contexts, and outcomes

Harleah G. Buck, Anna Stromberg, Misook L. Chung, Kristine A. Donovan, Karen Harkness, Allison M. Howard, Naoko Kato, Randall Polo, Lorraine S. Evangelista

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Background Having support from an informal carer is important for heart failure patients. Carers have the potential to improve patient self-care. At the same time, it should be acknowledged that caregiving could affect the carer negatively and cause emotional reactions of burden and stress. Dyadic (patient and informal carer) heart failure self-care interventions seek to improve patient self-care such as adherence to medical treatment, exercise training, symptom monitoring and symptom management when needed. Currently, no systematic assessment of dyadic interventions has been conducted with a focus on describing components, examining physical and delivery contexts, or determining the effect on patient and/or carer outcomes. Objective To examine the components, context, and outcomes of dyadic self-care interventions. Design A systematic review registered in PROSPERO, following PRISMA guidelines with a narrative analysis and realist synthesis. Data Sources: PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, PsycINFO, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched using MeSH, EMTREE terms, keywords, and keyword phrases for the following concepts: dyadic, carers, heart failure and intervention. Eligible studies were original research, written in English, on dyadic self-care interventions in adult samples. Review methods We used a two-tiered analytic approach including both completed studies with power to determine outcomes and ongoing studies including abstracts, small pilot studies and protocols to forecast future directions. Results Eighteen papers – 12 unique, completed intervention studies (two quasi- and ten experimental trials) from 2000 to 2016 were reviewed. Intervention components fell into three groups – education, support, and guidance. Interventions were implemented in 5 countries, across multiple settings of care, and involved 3 delivery modes – face to face, telephone or technology based. Dyadic intervention effects on cognitive, behavioral, affective and health services utilization outcomes were found within studies. However, findings across studies were inconclusive as some studies reported positive and some non-sustaining outcomes on the same variables. All the included papers had methodological limitations including insufficient sample size, mixed intervention effects and counter-intuitive outcomes. Conclusions We found that the evidence from dyadic interventions to promote heart failure self-care, while growing, is still very limited. Future research needs to involve advanced sample size justification, innovative solutions to increase and sustain behavior change, and use of mixed methods for capturing a more holistic picture of effects in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-242
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Caregiving
  • Dyad
  • Heart failure
  • Interventions
  • Self-care
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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