Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is generally defined as inability of the heart to supply sufficient blood flow to meet the body’s needs. The commonest cause is as a result of a previous heart attack (whereby a substantial part of the heart muscle dies).
Other causes include poorly controlled long standing hypertension, diseases of the heart valves, as well as less well defined causes like viral infections etc.
The common symptoms include:
Breathlessness when lying flat at night to sleep, with episodes of awakening due to breathlessness and necessitating the usage of more and more pillows
Breathlessness when exerting (e.g. walking), with the total effort tolerance decreasing objectively (e.g. can walk less and less) as the disease progresses
Fluid retention usually starting from the lower limbs (for people who are still able to walk)
CHF is considered an end-organ failure state. It has a mortality rate comparable to cancer, and treatment really lies in the:
Relief of symptoms
Optimization of function
Preservation of cardiac function
Medications are the mainstay of treatment, and other lifestyle measures may be implemented under a cardiologist’s supervision.
On occasion, there may be a role for a biventricular pacemaker insertion, as well as cardiac surgery.In the terminal stage, for suitable candidates, a heart transplant remains the only solution for cure.