When The Heart Fails

When the Heart Fails

In the United States, it is estimated that 6.5 million people suffer from heart failure, with 50% having a survival rate of less than five years. Heart failure accounts for the most hospital readmissions, with up to 50% of patients readmitted within 3-6 months (Baptiste, Mark, Groff-Paris, & Taylor, 2014).

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Overview – From the “Experts”

Heart Failure: Diagnosis, Management and Utilization

Heart failure (HF) is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the demands of the body. When this occurs, the body does not get enough oxygen. There are different types of HF – systolic and diastolic. Heart failure can also be isolated to different areas of the heart, creating right-sided, left-sided, or biventricular heart failure. The signs and symptoms of HF include shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, edema, increased heart rate, pedal edema, and abnormal lung sounds (Inamdar, & Inamdar, 2016).

Systolic HF

-The heart is unable to pump with enough force to circulate blood throughout the body.

Smaller & weaker muscles = less force

Diastolic HF

-The heart does not fill with enough blood to circulate throughout the body.

Bigger muscles = less filling

Left-Sided HF

-The left side of the body pumps oxygenated blood to the body. In left-sided failure, the left side of the heart is not able to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. This leads to a backup of blood into the lungs, leading to “congestion”, and symptoms such as shortness of breath or wheezing.

Right-Sided HF

-The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs for oxygenation. In right-sided failure, the right side of the heart loses its ability or the ability to pump blood is decreased. This leads to a backup of blood into the veins of the body, causing symptoms such as edema.

This video from Khan Academy illustrates heart failure – systolic, diastolic, right/left-sided, as well as biventricular. The drawings clearly show the impaired function of the heart in the presence of HF.


Let’s take a look at the causes of heart failure, more signs and symptoms, and how it’s diagnosed.


So What Now?

Management of heart failure

Once diagnosed, treatment of HF focuses on reducing symptoms and mortality. This can be accomplished with certain lifestyle modifications, such as increasing exercise, restricting salt, limiting alcohol intake, weight loss, and fluid restriction. Certain medications, such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, ARBs, diuretics, digoxin, nitrates, as well as anticoagulant therapy are used in the treatment of HF. In some cases, a device may also be implanted as part of treating HF, such as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (Krum, & Driscoll, 2013).

The second part of this video discusses interventions. Although it is from a nursing perspective, these interventions are important and can be applied by anyone in the treatment of heart failure. Another piece of information that this video addresses is pharmacological treatment for heart failure.




Baptiste, D. L., Mark, H., Groff-Paris, L., & Taylor, L. A. (2014). A nurse-guided patient-centered heart failure education program. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 4(3), 49-55. doi:10.5430/jnep.v4n3p49

Inamdar, A. A., & Inamdar, A. C. (2016). Heart Failure: Diagnosis, Management and Utilization. Journal of clinical medicine, 5(7), 62. doi:10.3390/jcm5070062

Krum, H., & Driscoll, A. (2013). Management of heart failure. The Medical Journal of Australia, 199(5), 334-338. doi:10.5694/mja12.10993

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