Congestive Heart Failure
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a disease that occurs when your heart becomes too weak to pump blood properly. Heart failure is caused by damage to your heart. Over time, the damage causes your heart to work harder and grow larger. The harder your heart works, the weaker it becomes until it cannot work properly.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
The risks of CHF may vary depending on how severe your condition is. If your CHF worsens, you may have increased shortness of breath, weight gain, and swelling. You may have abnormal heart beats or problems with your heart valves. Your liver and kidneys may fail. You are at higher risk for a heart attack or stroke. CHF is a life-threatening disease.
WHILE YOU ARE HERE:
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- ACE inhibitors help decrease your symptoms and slow your heart failure. You may need a medicine called ARBs if you cannot take ACE inhibitors. ARBs help your heart beat more strongly.
- Beta-blockers help your heart pump strongly and regularly.
- Cardiac glycosides help your heart beat strongly and decrease abnormal heartbeats.
- Nitrates improve the blood flow through your heart.
- Vasodilators improve blood flow by making the vessels in your heart and lungs wider.
- Diuretics help your body get rid of extra fluid and protect your heart from more damage. Diuretics may make you urinate more often.
- Morphine helps blood vessels in your lungs open wider. This lets your blood pick up more oxygen, and your breathing may become easier.
- Blood thinners prevent blood clots. They may make you bruise or bleed more easily. To prevent bleeding, brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush, and shave with an electric shaver.
- An ECG , also called an EKG, is a test that records a short period of electrical activity in your heart to check for damage.
- A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood.
- Intake and output is done to measure how much liquid you drink or get in your IV, and how much you urinate. They will compare your weight from day to day to check how much body fluid you have. Rapid weight gain can be a sign of fluid retention. This may mean your CHF is worsening.
- An arterial line is a tube used for measuring your blood pressure or for taking blood. The tube is placed into an artery, usually in the wrist or groin.
- A pulmonary artery catheter is a balloon-tipped tube inserted through a vein in your neck or groin. The catheter is used to measure the pressure in your heart and lungs. The measurements can also show caregivers how your heart responds to medicines.
- Blood tests are used to check for hormone or electrolyte imbalances, diseases, and lung, liver, or kidney function.
- A chest x-ray will show the size of your heart and if there is fluid around your heart and lungs.
- An echocardiogram (echo) is a type of ultrasound that shows the movement and blood vessels of your heart. A transesophageal echo (TEE) may be used if your heart cannot be seen well enough on a regular echo. For a TEE, caregivers will put a tube into your mouth and move it down into your esophagus until it is near your heart. The tube has a small ultrasound sensor on the end that shows your heart on a monitor.
- Pulmonary function tests help caregivers learn how well your body uses oxygen. You breathe into a mouthpiece connected to a machine. The machine measures how much air you breathe in and out over a certain amount of time.
- Angioplasty is a procedure to open a blocked or narrowed artery.
- Extra oxygen may be given through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. A CPAP may be used to keep your airway open while you sleep. You may need a ventilator if you cannot breathe on your own.
- Implanted devices are put under your skin to help your heart beat properly. A pacemaker is an example of an implanted device.
- Fluid balance is a procedure to remove extra fluid from your blood.
- Surgery may be done to open blocked heart vessels. You may need to have a damaged valve replaced. You may need a heart transplant if all other treatments have failed.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.