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Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure: Introduction

Congestive heart failure, or CHF, is a very serious condition in which the heart muscle has been damaged. Although the heart continues to beat in congestive heart failure, it is too weak to efficiently pump enough oxygen-rich blood to and from the lungs and the rest of the body. Congestive heart failure is a common complication of heart attack and other types of heart diseases and cardiovascular diseases that damage the heart muscle. These include hypertension, heart valve disorders, arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathy. Congestive heart failure can also result from anemia.

Any disease or condition that increases the risk of developing heart disease or cardiovascular disease also increases the risk of eventually developing congestive heart failure as a complication. These risks include having diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. Other risk factors include being male, of African-American ancestry, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Having a lot of long-term stress, smoking and having a family history of heart disease or cardiovascular disease are also risk factors.

There are two types of congestive heart failure. In left-sided congestive heart failure, the heart is not able to pump blood effectively out to the body, which results in blood backing up into the veins that carry blood from the lungs to the heart. This increases blood pressure in the lungs and leads to the accumulation of fluid in the lungs. This is called pulmonary edema and is a very serious condition, which can be fatal. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and low oxygen levels in the blood.

In right-sided congestive heart failure, the weak pumping of the heart allows blood to back up in the veins that lead from the body to the heart. This leads to swelling of the lower extremities (edema) and other symptoms. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of congestive heart failure.

Making a diagnosis of congestive heart failure includes a complete medical evaluation, medical history and physical examination. If symptoms are acute and severe, this is often done in an emergency room. The physical exam includes listening to the sounds of the heart and the lungs with a stethoscope. Certain sounds, such as a crackling or bubbling sound on the lungs, indicate congestion in the lungs and may point to a diagnosis of congestive heart failure.

A chest X-ray is generally performed to see the size and shape of the heart and can reveal lung congestion and other conditions, such as pneumonia. Other tests may include an echocardiogram, which can evaluate the heart valves and determine how much blood the heart is able to pump.

Other testing may be done to rule-out or diagnose underlying causes of congestive heart failure or other conditions that can mimic congestive heart failure. For example, testing generally includes an EKG, which takes a picture of the electrical activity of the heart and can reveal abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart and damage done to the heart due to heart attack and some other forms of heart disease. A coronary angiogram may also be performed to look for blocked coronary arteries.

It is possible that a diagnosis of congestive heart failure can be missed or delayed because the symptoms may develop gradually, be mild and can be similar to symptoms of other conditions. For more information about misdiagnosis and diseases and conditions that can mimic congestive heart failure, refer to misdiagnosis of congestive heart failure.

Treatment of congestive heart failure can include lifestyle and dietary changes, medications, and heart transplant in some cases. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of congestive heart failure. ...more »

Congestive Heart Failure: Congestive heart failure is a major chronic disease for older adults, accounting for about 260,000 deaths a year. The majority of the nearly 5 million U.S. ... more about Congestive Heart Failure.

Congestive Heart Failure: Inadequate pumping and decline of heart function common in the elderly. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Congestive Heart Failure is available below.

Congestive Heart Failure: Symptoms

Symptoms of congestive heart failure can vary between individuals and can differ depending on the severity of the disease and the underlying cause. In some cases, an individual may not have symptoms until the disease has progressed and become severe. Early symptoms can develop slowly.

The primary symptom of congestive heart failure is shortness of breath, which can occur at ...more symptoms »

Congestive Heart Failure: Treatments

Congestive heart failure is not always fatal and the prognosis depends on the severity of congestive heart failure, the underlying cause, age, general health, and coexisting disease, such as diabetes. The most effective congestive heart failure treatment plans employ a multifaceted approach.

This includes preventive care aimed at minimizing the risk ...more treatments »

Congestive Heart Failure: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of congestive heart failure may be overlooked or delayed because in some cases there are no symptoms until the condition becomes severe or because symptoms can develop gradually allowing a person to adapt to them. Some symptoms are vague and not specific to congestive heart failure. These include weakness, fatigue, confusion, ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

Treatments for Congestive Heart Failure

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive Heart Failure: Related Patient Stories

Congestive Heart Failure: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Congestive Heart Failure.

Congestive Heart Failure: Complications

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Causes of Congestive Heart Failure

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Disease Topics Related To Congestive Heart Failure

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Congestive Heart Failure:

Congestive Heart Failure: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Congestive Heart Failure

Heart attacks can be undiagnosed: Although the most severe symptoms of heart attack are hard to miss, there are varying degrees of severity. It more »

Heart attacks can be overdiagnosed: Although many people die from heart attacks, there are also many cases where people fear that they have more »

Rare heart condition often undiagnosed: The rare heart condition called long QT syndrome can lead to episodes of palpitations and rapid heartbeat. more »

Heart attack can be over-diagnosed: Although heart attack is often undiagnosed, leading to fatality, it can also be over-diagnosed. People become concerned that a condition is a heart attack, whereas there are various less more »

Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used more »

Hypertension misdiagnosis common in children: Hypertension is often misdiagnosed in adults (see misdiagnosis of hypertension), but its misdiagnosis is even more likely in children. Some of the symptoms of hypertension that can more »

Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as more »

Congestive Heart Failure: Research Doctors & Specialists

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Hospitals & Clinics: Congestive Heart Failure

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Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Congestive Heart Failure, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Congestive Heart Failure: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for Congestive Heart Failure

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Congestive Heart Failure

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Congestive Heart Failure: Animations

Prognosis for Congestive Heart Failure

Prognosis for Congestive Heart Failure: Poor. 5-year survival around 50%. About 20% survive longer than 8-12 years.

Research about Congestive Heart Failure

Visit our research pages for current research about Congestive Heart Failure treatments.

Clinical Trials for Congestive Heart Failure

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Congestive Heart Failure include:

Prevention of Congestive Heart Failure

Prevention information for Congestive Heart Failure has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Congestive Heart Failure.

Statistics for Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure: Broader Related Topics

Congestive Heart Failure Message Boards

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Article Excerpts about Congestive Heart Failure

Facts About Heart Failure in Older Adults: CDC-OC (Excerpt)

Congestive heart failure is a major chronic disease for older adults, accounting for about 260,000 deaths a year. The majority of the nearly 5 million U.S. patients with heart failure are older than 65 years. In 1995, $3.4 billion was paid by Medicare for heart failure. As the "baby boomers" age during the next 40 years, the number of heart failure patients older than 65 is expected to double. (Source: excerpt from Facts About Heart Failure in Older Adults: CDC-OC)


Congestive heart failure is a term often used to describe heart failure. But congestion, or the buildup of fluid, is only one symptom of heart failure and does not occur in all people who have heart failure. (Source: excerpt from HEART AND CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: NWHIC)

Definitions of Congestive Heart Failure:

Inability to pump enough blood to avoid congestion in the tissues - (Source - WordNet 2.1)

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