Skip to Main Content

Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter the student will be able to:

  • Define heart failure.

  • Identify the causes of heart failure.

  • Describe the pathophysiology of heart failure.

  • Identify the signs and symptoms of heart failure.

  • Describe the workup for heart failure.

  • Explain the mechanism of medications used for the treatment of heart failure.


Congestive heart failure is the most common cause of hospitalization in the United States. The number of patients that carry the primary diagnosis of heart failure account for greater than 3 million visits per year. The burden of this disease and the cost of caring for these patients are staggering. Heart failure is the last destination and most common complication for the majority of heart diseases such as myocardial infarction, hypertension, valvular heart diseases, atherosclerosis, and congenital heart disease. Consequently, there are various types, stages, and pathogeneses of heart failure. Therefore, an understanding of the pathophysiology of this disease is essential in managing these patients.


When the ability of the heart to effectively pump blood to the rest of the body is compromised, this will result in a mismatch between supply and demand of the metabolizing tissues ­during ordinary activity.

Congestive heart failure can occur as a result of impaired cardiac contractility, which is known as systolic congestive heart failure. It can also result from increased myocardial stiffness or an inability of the heart to relax in the absence of reduced contractility, often known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFEF) or diastolic heart failure. High output cardiac failure is another entity characterized by elevated cardiac output in certain medical conditions such as Beriberi, hyperthyroidism, and systemic AV fistulas. Even though the resting cardiac index is elevated, symptoms of heart failure develop because of a failure to compensate for increased requirements. Table 11.1 lists the major causes of heart failure.

Table 11.1Causes of heart failure

Causes of Heart Failure

Heart Failure Due to Impaired Cardiac Function

  • Myocardial infarction

  • Valvular dysfunction

  • Hypertension

  • Toxins

  • Infections, such as sepsis and Chagas disease

  • Arrhythmias

  • Stress-induced cardiomyopathy

  • Muscular dystrophies, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy

  • Autoimmune etiologies

  • Endocrinopathies such as hyperthyroidism

  • Glycogen storage diseases

  • Alcohol-induced cardiomyopathy

  • Myocarditis

  • Chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity

Heart Failure Due to Impaired Relaxation of the Cardiac Muscle Is Also Known as Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction


Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.