Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

  • Medical Author:
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

  • Medical Author: Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Quick GuideHeart Health Pictures Slideshow: 12 Possible Heart Symptoms Never to Ignore

Heart Health Pictures Slideshow: 12 Possible Heart Symptoms Never to Ignore

What are the signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure?

Shortness of breath

The hallmark and most common symptom of left heart failure is shortness of breath and may occur.

  • while at rest
  • with activity or exertion
  • while lying flat (orthopnea)
  • while awakening the person from sleep (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea); or
  • due to fluid (water, mainly) accumulation in the lungs or the inability of the heart to be efficient enough to pump blood to the organs of the body when called upon in times of exertion or stress.

Chest Pain

Chest pain or angina may be associated, especially if the underlying cause of the failure is atherosclerotic heart disease.

Right heart failure, left heart failure, or both

  • Patients with right heart failure leak fluid into the tissue and organs that deliver blood to the right heart through the vena cava.
  • Back pressure in capillary blood vessels cause them to leak water into the space between cells and commonly the fluid can be found in the lowest parts of the body.
  • Gravity causes fluid to accumulate in the feet and ankles but as more fluid accumulates, it may creep up to involve all of the lower legs.
  • Fluid can also accumulate within the liver causing it to swell (hepatomegaly) and also within the abdominal cavity (ascites).
  • Ascites and hepatomegaly may make the patient feel bloated, nauseated, and have abdominal pain with the feeling of distension.
  • Depending upon their underlying illness and the clinical situation, patients may have symptoms of right heart failure, left heart failure, or both. Continue Reading
Reviewed on 5/19/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Roger, Veronique L., et al. on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. "Heart disease and stroke statistics -- 2011 update: a report from the American Heart Association." Circulation 123.4 (2011): e18-e209.

Ho, K. K., et al. "The epidemiology of heart failure: the Framingham Study." Journal of the American College of Cardiology 22.4 Suppl A (1993): 6A-13A.

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