Diagnosis - Health Issue: Congestive Heart Failure

Health Issue: Congestive Heart Failure



Heart failure is almost always a chronic, long-term condition, although it can sometimes develop suddenly. This condition may affect the right side, the left side, or both sides of the heart.

As the heart's pumping action is lost, blood may back up into other areas of the body, including the:

  • Gastrointestinal tract, arms, and legs (right-sided heart failure)
  • Liver 
  • Lungs (left-sided heart failure)

Heart failure results in a lack of oxygen and nutrition to organs, which damages them and reduces their ability to function properly. Most areas of the body can be affected when both sides of the heart fail.

The most common causes of heart failure are:

  • Coronary artery disease 
  • High blood pressure

Other structural or functional causes of heart failure include:

  • Cardiomyopathy  
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Hypertropic cardiomyopathy
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Heart valve disease
  • Heart tumor
  • Lung disease


Heart failure becomes more common with advancing age. You are also at increased risk if you have a personal or family history of heart related symptoms.


A physical examination may reveal the following:

  • Fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion)
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Leg swelling (edema)
  • Neck veins that stick out (are distended)
  • Swelling of the liver

Listening to the chest with a stethoscope may reveal lung crackles or abnormal heart sounds. Blood pressure may be normal, high, or low.

The following tests may reveal heart swelling or decreased heart function:

  • Cardiac MRI
  • Chest CT scan
  • Chest x-ray
  • ECG, which may also show arrhythmias
  • Echocardiogram
  • Heart catheterization
  • Nuclear heart scans

This disease may also alter the following test results:

  • Blood chemistry
  • BUN
  • Complete blood count
  • Creatinine
  • Creatinine clearance
  • Liver function tests
  • Serum uric acid
  • Serum sodium
  • Urinalysis
  • Urinary sodium

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