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Symptoms and Progression of Heart Failure

Heart Failure Symptoms

Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart failure, is the leading cause of death in the modern world–more than all cancers combined.

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. Blood that pumps through the left ventricle must also 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.

End-stage biventricular heart failure occurs when both ventricles of 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. This is caused by changing levels of certain substances in the blood, such as sodium.
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea). This occurs when the blood flowing from the lungs back to the heart 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 to function properly.
  • 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.

The Progression of Heart Failure

New York Heart Association (NYHA) Classification of Heart Failure

Class Patient Symptoms
Class I (Mild) No limitation of physical activity. Ordinary physical activity does not cause undue fatigue, rapid/irregular heartbeat (palpitation) or shortness of breath (dyspnea).
Class II (Mild) Slight limitation of physical activity. Comfortable at rest, but ordinary physical activity results in fatigue, rapid/irregular heartbeat (palpitation) or shortness of breath (dyspnea).
Class III (Moderate) Marked limitation of physical activity. Comfortable at rest, but less than ordinary activity causes fatigue, rapid/irregular heartbeat (palpitation) or shortness of breath (dyspnea).
Class IV (Severe) Unable to carry out any physical activity without discomfort. Symptoms of fatigue, rapid/irregular heartbeat (palpitation) or shortness of breath (dyspnea) are present at rest. If any physical activity is undertaken, discomfort increases.

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

Sickest of the Sick

New York Heart Association (NYHA) Classifications - SynCardia Total Artificial Heart

Patients dying from end-stage biventricular failure are days, if not hours, from death. Their survival is dependent on receiving an immediate matching donor heart transplant or the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart as a bridge to heart transplant.


End-Stage Heart Failure

For people who progress to end-stage biventricular failure, there are two treatment options: an immediate donor heart transplant or the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart that acts as a bridge to transplant.

Immediate Donor Heart Transplant

Immediate Artificial Heart Implant

Donor Heart

Nearly half the people waiting for a donor heart have been on the list for more than a year.

total Artificial Heart

Unlike a donor heart, the Total Artificial Heart is quickly available at over 100 SynCardia Certified Centers.

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