Types of Complications of Heart Failure

Submitted by Nic on January 30, 2013

Heart failure is not a disease. Rather, it is a condition brought about by the heart's inability to pump enough blood to meet the body's requirement. The failure is gradual unlike in the case of a cardiac arrest where the heart stops beating. The failure usually occurs over a period of months or years as the heart's chambers become weakened and unable to pump out all the blood that enters them. This leads to a buildup of fluids in the lungs and tissues, and causes congestion which is why the condition is also referred to as congestive heart failure or cardiomyopathy.

Heart failure is most commonly caused by coronary heart disease (CAD). This occurs when the coronary arteries become narrow over a period of time, affecting the blood and oxygen supply to the muscles of the heart.

Apart from this, the other causes of heart failure include:

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Disease affecting the heart valves
  • Infection that weakens the heart muscle
  • Certain types of arrhythmias
  • Amloidosis
  • Emphysema
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Severe anemia
  • Excessive iron in the body

Types of Complications of Heart Failure

There are different types of complications that may arise due to heart failure. These include both long and short term complications.

Heart failure is the leading cause of death in those who are 65 years or older. However, advances in the treatment of conditions such as hypertension, newer surgical techniques and better pacemaker technology have lead to an improvement in survival rates.

Complications of heart failure include;

  • Cardiac Cacheia - This is a term used to describe an abnormal and rapid weight loss that is a sign of a worsening condition. This complication is usually more severe in overweight patients.
  • Kidney Damage - The inability of the heart to pump sufficient blood to meet the body's requirements has an adverse effect on the body's organs especially the kidneys. Lowered kidney function is observed in many heart patients. Other conditions such as diabetes, if present, can also exacerbate the decline in kidney function. Studies have shown that decreased kidney function in patients with heart failure can cause further complications that may result in a premature death.
  • Congestion or fluid buildup - Left-sided heart failure leads to a fluid buildup in the lungs. Right-sided heart failure will result in fluid buildup in the extremities and the abdomen. Fluid buildup can be treated with medications such as diuretics and lifestyle changes such as a reduced salt intake.
  • Atrial fibrillation - This is a dangerous condition caused by a rapid irregular heartbeat in the upper chambers. It is a leading cause of stroke.
  • Left bundle-branch block - It is a neurological complication that affects electrical conduction in the heart. It affects up to 30% of all those suffering from heart failure.
  • Arrhythmias - These include ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation and occur when heart function has been seriously diminished.
  • Depression - Another complication arising out of heart failure, depression signifies a poor outlook for the patient.  This is probably due to the adverse effect depression has on the immune and nervous system. It can also adversely affect blood clotting, blood pressure, blood vessels and can result in heart arrhythmias. Depressed patients may fail to follow their doctor's advice with regard to lifestyle changes and may not be able to take proper care of themselves.
  • Angina - The risks of angina attacks increases in case of heart failure.
  • Heart Attacks - People suffering from heart failure are at increased risk of having heart attacks. They need to take care of themselves and remember not to over-exert themselves especially during the winter season.


  • http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/who_gets_congestive_heart_failure_what_risk_factors_000013_4.htm
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