Diagnosing & Treating Congestive Heart Failure
How is congestive heart failure diagnosed?
Doctors can usually diagnose congestive heart failure (CHF) based on a physical exam and the symptoms alone. During the physical exam, the doctor will check for a weak or rapid pulse rate, enlargement of the heart, swollen neck veins, swelling of the liver, fluid retention, sounds of fluid in the lungs, and abnormal heart sounds.
To confirm the diagnosis, he or she may perform a number of tests including:
- chest x-rays
- blood tests
- 12-lead electrocardiograms (EKGs)
- exercise stress tests.
Tests such as electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and angiography create images of the heart's activity and are also helpful in the diagnosis.
How is congestive heart failure treated?
There are many effective treatments for heart failure. You may need to monitor your blood pressure, weight and diet, especially your intake of sodium. Your physician may prescribe a combination of drugs to help the heart pump better and regain strength. These may include:
- Diuretics - to help the body eliminate fluid and sodium
- Vasodilators and ACE Inhibitors - to open up the blood vessels to help blood flow more freely
- Inotropes or Digoxin - to strengthen the heart's contraction
- B-Blockers - to reduce the effort that the heart needs to contract
Frequently asked questions about congestive heart failure.