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The Progression of Heart Failure

If you have heart failure, you’re not alone. Millions of people around the world are suffering from this chronic and progressive disease.

Causes of Heart Failure

Heart failure often develops after your heart has been damaged or weakened by other conditions, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and cardiomyopathy.

Your heart consists of two ventricles. What pumps through the left ventricle must pump through the right ventricle or complications occur. The left ventricle is usually the first to fail because it works harder to pump blood to the entire body. Left ventricle failure can also hide right ventricle failure.

Heart failure occurs when your heart can no longer pump enough blood to sustain your body. Vital organs like the kidneys, liver and brain are starved of the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly.

Symptoms of Heart Failure

Confusion, impaired thinking - Changing levels of certain substances
in the blood, such as sodium, cause confusion. 

Shortness of breath (dyspnea) - When the blood is flowing from the
lungs back to the heart, the blood “backs up” into the pulmonary
veins because the heart can’t keep up. 

Persistent coughing or wheezing - The heart’s decreased pumping
ability causes fluid to build up in the lungs. 

Increased heart rate/palpitations - To “make up” for the loss in
pumping capacity, the heart beats faster. 

Swelling (edema) - The excess fluid caused by the heart’s decreased
pumping ability also builds up in the body tissues. The kidneys are less
able to dispose of sodium and water. 

Lack of appetite, nausea - The digestive system receives less blood.

Tiredness, fatigue - The heart can’t pump enough blood for the entire
body, so it diverts blood away from the less vital organs, like the muscles
in the limbs, and sends it to the heart and brain.

Stages of Heart Failure

The progression of heart failure is divided into four classes based on your symptoms and quality of life:

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End-Stage Heart Failure

For people who progress to end-stage biventricular failure, where both sides of their heart are failing to pump enough blood to sustain their body, there are two treatment options: an immediate donor heart transplant or the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart as a bridge to transplant.

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NEXT ›› Glossary

*The SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart was formerly known as the
SynCardia temporary CardioWest™ Total Artificial Heart.

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