Heart failure

Heart failure
Inability of the heart to keep up with the demands on it and, specifically, failure of the heart to pump blood with normal efficiency. When this occurs, the heart is unable to provide adequate blood flow to other organs such as the brain, liver and kidneys. Heart failure may be due to failure of the right or left or both ventricles. The signs and symptoms depend upon which side of the heart is failing. They can include shortness of breath (dyspnea), asthma due to the heart (cardiac asthma), pooling of blood (stasis) in the general body (systemic) circulation or in the liver's (portal) circulation, swelling (edema), blueness or duskiness (cyanosis), and enlargement (hypertrophy) of the heart. There are many causes of congestive heart failure including: (1) coronary artery disease leading to heart attacks and heart muscle weakness, (2) primary heart muscle weakness from viral infections or toxins such as prolonged alcohol exposure, (3) heart valve disease causing heart muscle weakness due to too much leaking of blood or heart muscle stiffness from a blocked valve, and (4) hypertension (high blood pressure). Rarer causes include hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone), vitamin deficiency, and excess amphetamine ("speed") use. The aim of therapy is to improve the pumping function of the heart. General treatment includes salt restriction, diuretics (to get rid of excess fluid), digoxin (to strengthen the heart), and other medications. A drug called spironolactone has been found to be a major help in treating congestive heart failure Its beneficial effects are additive to those from ACE inhibitors, another class of drugs commonly relied on in treating heart failure. A pacemaker-like device is also now available to treat heart failure. The implantable device delivers synchronized electrical stimulation to three chambers of the heart, enabling the heart to pump blood more efficiently throughout the body.

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heart failure n
1) a condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood at an adequate rate or in adequate volume compare ANGINA PECTORIS, CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE, CORONARY FAILURE, heart attack
2) cessation of heartbeat: DEATH

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a condition in which the pumping action of the ventricle of the heart is inadequate. This results in back pressure of blood, with congestion of the lungs and liver. The veins in the neck becomed engorged and fluid accumulates in the tissues (see oedema). There is a reduced flow of arterial blood from the heart, which in extreme cases results in peripheral circulatory failure (cardiogenic shock). Heart failure may result from any condition that overloads, damages, or reduces the efficiency of the heart muscle. Common causes are coronary thrombosis, hypertension, chronic disease of the valves, and arrhythmias. The patient experiences breathlessness, even when lying flat, and oedema of the legs.
Treatment consists of rest, a low salt diet, diuretic drugs (e.g. furosemide), and digitalis derivatives (e.g. digoxin). Structural abnormalities, such as defective valves, may be corrected surgically.

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inability of the heart to pump blood at an adequate rate to fill tissue metabolic requirements or the ability to do so only at an elevated filling pressure. It can be defined clinically as a syndrome of ventricular dysfunction accompanied by reduced exercise capacity and other characteristic hemodynamic, renal, neural, and hormonal responses.

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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