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Aims: Pulmonary oedema is a common and important finding in acute heart failure (AHF). We conducted a systematic review to describe the methods used to assess pulmonary oedema in recent randomized AHF trials and report its prevalence in these trials. Methods and results: Of 23 AHF trials published between 2002 and 2013, six were excluded because they were very small or not randomized, or missing full-length publications. Of the remaining 17 (n = 200–7141) trials, six enrolled patients with HF and reduced ejection fraction (HF-REF) and 11, patients with both HF-REF and HF with preserved ejection fraction (HF-PEF). Pulmonary oedema was an essential inclusion criterion, in most trials, based upon findings on physical examination (‘rales’), radiographic criteria (‘signs of congestion’), or both. The prevalence of pulmonary oedema in HF-REF trials ranged from 75% to 83% and in combined HF-REF and HF-PEF trials from 51% to 100%. Five trials did not report the prevalence or extent of pulmonary oedema assessed by either clinical examination or chest x-ray. Improvement of pulmonary congestion with treatment was inconsistently reported and commonly grouped with other signs of congestion into a score. One trial suggested that patients with rales over > 2/3 of the lung fields on admission were at higher risk of adverse outcomes than those without. Conclusion: Although pulmonary oedema is a common finding in AHF, represents a therapeutic target, and may be of prognostic importance, recent trials used inconsistent criteria to define it, and did not consistently report its severity at baseline or its response to treatment. Consistent and ideally quantitative, methods for the assessment of pulmonary oedema in AHF trials are needed.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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