Congestive Heart Failure

         Basic Facts

  • Congestive heart failure means that the heart muscle is weakened. A weakened heart muscle may not be strong enough to pump an adequate amount of blood out of its chambers to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. To compensate for its diminished pumping capacity, the heart may enlarge. 
  • Commonly, the heart’s pumping inefficiency causes a buildup of blood in the lungs, a condition called pulmonary congestion. 
  • Although most forms of congestive heart failure are life-long, the goal of treatment is to decrease the likelihood of disease progression, to lesson symptoms and to improve quality of life.

Congestive Heart FailureTypes of Heart Failure

  • Left-sided Heart Failure - The left ventricle typically pumps out inadequate amounts of oxygenated blood to the rest of the body, and fluid backs up into the lungs.
  • Right-sided Heart Failure - The resistance to blood flow through the lungs exceeds the right ventricle’s ability to pump blood into the lungs. Consequently, blood backs up into the liver and other organs. The most common cause of right heart failure is actually left heart failure.
  • Systolic Heart Failure - The heart’s pumping function is depressed.
  • Diastolic Heart Failure - The heart is unable to fill up with an adequate amount of blood. Diastolic heart failure usually occurs because the muscular heart wall thickens and stiffens. Abnormal thickening of the heart muscle wall, called hypertrophy, has many causes, the most common of which is hypertension. Less commonly, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may cause heart muscle to thicken. Up to 50% of patients with heart failure have diastolic heart failure. 
As the heart muscle weakens, the heart's pumping function decreases. Blood can back up into the lungs, liver, and other organs.

Congestive Heart Failure FAQ