CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE
DESCRIPTIONCongestive heart failure is a complication of many serious diseases in which the heart loses its full pumping capacity. Blood backs up into other organs, especially
the lungs and liver. The heart, blood vessels, lungs, liver, and extremities are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Surgery to correct congenital defects.
Hospitalization (frequently for severe cases).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSShortness of breath, especially with exertion or when lying flat in bed.
Fatigue, weakness, or faintness.
Cough (usually with sputum).
Swelling of the abdomen, legs, and ankles.
Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Low blood pressure.
Distended neck veins.
CAUSESHigh blood pressure; heart-valve disease; heartbeat irregularities; congenital heart disease; cardiomyopathy; hyperthyroidism; severe anemia; heart tumor (rare); infections complicating underlying heart disease.
Infections with high fever; smoking; obesity; excess alcohol consumption -- alcohol depresses heart function; use of certain drugs, such as beta-adrenergic blockers or excess digitalis; diet that is high in fat and salt.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEIf your child has a condition that can lead to congestive heart failure, obtain medical care and adhere to the treatment program. Your child should follow your dietary guidelines, and should not drink alcohol or smoke.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory blood studies and urinalysis.
EKG (See Glossary).
X-rays of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels (angiography).
Echocardiogram (See Glossary).
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSPulmonary edema.
Life expectancy is reduced, but many forms are well-controlled for a while with medication and sometimes surgery. Other forms cause chronic illness. Any infection may worsen the condition.
Weigh your child daily and keep a record.
Don't allow the patient to smoke.
MEDICATIONDiuretics to decrease fluid retention and swelling.
Digitalis to strengthen and regulate heartbeat.
Anti-arrhythmic drugs to stabilize heartbeat.
Anti-coagulants to reduce blood clotting.
Potassium replacements, if your child takes diuretics or digitalis.
Your doctor may prescribe:
In early stages, bed rest with the upper body elevated is as important as medication. Your child should avoid unnecessary exertion (such as climbing stairs) until the condition is under control. Then consult your doctor about acceptable activity.
DIET & FLUIDSYour child should achieve the ideal weight to reduce the heart's workload.
Encourage your child to eat a low-salt, low-fat, high-fiber diet (see Appendices 29 and 28).
Urge your child not to drink alcohol.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of congestive heart failure.
The following occurs during treatment: symptoms of infection, such as fever, muscle aches, headache, and dizziness; worsening of symptoms, especially rapid or irregular heartbeat or wheezing at night; cough with increased sputum or blood; weight gain of 3 or 4 pounds in 1 or 2 days.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.