Congestive heart failure (CHF): Describes a condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently and which ultimately results in the retaining of fluid by the kidneys. It is this retention of fluid that leads to the major symptoms of CHF, which are dyspnea and edema. The modern terminology often leaves off the “congestive” part of this phrase, since all patients with CHF are not always “congested”, that is, have evidence on physical examination of fluid overload.
Dyspnea: Medical term for shortness of breath
Edema: Medical term for swelling
Ejection fraction (EF): Amount of blood pumped out of the heart with each heartbeat. The normal range is 55% to 65%. Tests to measure EF include:
A. Echocardiogram: Sound waves are used to assess the chambers of the heart and the function of the heart valves.
B. Resting first pass study (RFP): Assesses the pumping efficiency (EF) of the hearts main chambers. Patient is injected with a low-level radioisotope, and then pictures are taken with a special camera.
IV inotropic therapy: Continuous IV fusion of a medication designed to strengthen the heart’s pumping efficiency. This treatment is reserved for patients whose CHF does not respond to maximal oral medical therapy. This treatment is generally reserved for those awaiting cardiac transplantation.
Left ventricle (LV): One of the bottom chambers and the main pumping chamber of the heart. When health care providers refer to the EF, they are referring to the pumping efficiency of the left ventricle.
Medications commonly used to treat CHF:
Beta-blockers: These medications can actually strengthen the heart muscle and reduce mortality and need for hospitalization for those patients with CHF.
ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors and ARB’s (angiotensin receptor blockers): These drugs are used to dilate the peripheral arteries so that heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood. These medications also reduce mortality and need for hospitalization for those patients with CHF.
Diuretics: Commonly referred to as "water pills" used to prevent water retention.
Nitrates: Used to dilate arteries and increase oxygen supply to the muscles, tissues and organs.