Physicians diagnose congestive heart failure through a medical history and a physical exam.
Shortness of breath on exertion, or dyspnea, and weakness are the two main symptoms physicians look for when diagnosing the condition. During an exam, a doctor may also hear rales, or wet crackles, indicating fluid in the lungs. Physicians may also listen with a stethoscope for sounds of a 'gallop,' or extra beat, in the heart that indicates abnormal heart function.
Physicians use the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:
- Blood work
- Chest X-Rays
- Echocardiogram - This test uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart, showing its size and shape, as well as how the heart chambers and valves are working.