In order to bring you the best possible user experience, this site uses Javascript. If you are seeing this message, it is likely that the Javascript option in your browser is disabled. For optimal viewing of this site, please ensure that Javascript is enabled for your browser.
Did you know that your browser is out of date? To get the best experience using our website we recommend that you upgrade to a newer version. Learn more.

We use cookies to optimise the design of this website and make continuous improvement. By continuing your visit, you consent to the use of cookies. Learn more

Celebrating 20 years of Heart Failure congresses

Dirk Brutsaert, the first president of the Heart Failure Association (HFA), reflects on the first 20 years of the Heart Failure congress, exploring how the meeting has evolved hand-in-hand with the HFA. The congress and association together, he explains, have done much to shape the specialty of heart failure.

It is 20 years since the first European meeting on heart failure was launched in Amsterdam, in June 1995 with the congress evolving an innovative approach where translational research features alongside Late Breaking Clinical Trials.

“The success of the Heart Failure congress is undoubtedly the emphasis placed on patients, with the meeting covering all aspects of the condition” says Dirk Brutsaert, Past President of the HFA (2004-2006). “Over the last two decades, our congress has done much to promote the awareness for heart failure (HF) as a serious condition. Before there was a wide spread belief HF was just part of getting older.”

The first congress was the inspiration of Willem Remme, from the Netherlands, who gathered together a group of like-minded friends.

“Initially, doubters within the ESC community expressed the view there was no need for a stand-alone meeting because all cardiologists treated HF. Everyone was surprised when they achieved 1,800 delegates,” says Brutsaert.

The 1995 Amsterdam meeting, together with the next three meetings (Cologne 1996, Gothenburg 1998, and Glasgow 2000) were, though independent of the ESC, most successful. Initially the meetings, which consisted of a large assembly alternating with smaller clinical trial update meetings, were organised by local hosts who obtained private funding with support from a ‘small nucleus’. The 2002 meeting marked the start of annual large meetings and also the first fully backed ESC Heart Failure Congress and the creation of the ESC Working Group (WG) on HF, which in 2004 became the HFA. Prior to formation of the WG there had been no separate HF organisation within the ESC.

Today, the Heart Failure congress is regarded as the premier meeting on HF in the world, attracting more than 4,500 delegates from 70 different countries. It is coordinated by the HFA Board, consisting of 12 clinicians, eight basic scientists and three nurses, and considered as the HFA’s principal networking activity.

Undoubtedly, the Heart Failure congress provides an important platform to showcase new HF agents. Karl Swedberg’s presentation at the 1998 Gothenburg meeting opened the way for β blockers to become standard practice in HF and later comparisons were made between different β blockers, with carvedilol showing survival benefits. At Heart Failure 2014 the HFA launched the World Congress on Acute Heart Failure, answering an unmet need in the field.

From the outset, the congress looked to integrate basic science into main sessions.

“Highlighting basic science has been key since it promotes understanding of mechanisms opening the way for the development of new therapies,” explains Brutsaert. Sessions at the congress have also done much to promote the importance of aerobic exercise training among HF patients which has helped reduce morbidity and mortality. “The HFA created a committee on exercise training in HF which produced recommendations. But it was the presence of nurses at the congress who helped get the message across to patients,” says Brutsaert.

The Heart Failure congress, says Brutsaert, has undoubtedly done much to put HF on the map.

“Before our congress there was little awareness or expertise in dealing with patients with HF, they were just mixed in with other patients. Now HF has become a speciality in its own right.”