Heart failure

Heart failure is a condition where the heart muscle is weakened and not able to pump blood effectively. Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped pumping, it simply means that the heart muscle is weak and not able to keep up with your body’s demands. 

Symptoms of heart failure include fatigue, tiredness, shortness of breath and fluid may collect in your body. You may also notice that you are having trouble sleeping at night due to breathlessness, and despite a loss of appetite, you are gaining weight. Common causes of heart failure are damage to the heart from a previous heart attack, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart valve disease, infection in the heart or valves and diabetes. It could also be caused by a congenital problem that you were born with. People who consume a lot of alcohol or drugs are also at higher risk to develop heart failure. 

When your heart is pumping poorly it must work harder to pump blood throughout your body and your heart may beat too fast or have irregular beats. You will likely seek medical attention because you have symptoms such as fluid retention such as swollen legs, fullness in your abdomen and/or progressive shortness of breath.

If you are admitted to the hospital for heart failure, you can expect to experience the following: 

  • When you are admitted to KGH you may be monitored by telemetry and you will be given oxygen or a breathing mask to help you breathe easier.
  • You will be given medications called diuretics which will help you urinate more.
  • You will be weighed everyday to see if you are getting rid of the extra fluid in your body and hopefully your breathing will gradually improve.
  • You may have daily blood tests and will likely have a chest X-ray so we can assess your lungs. An ECHO exam will be done so we can determine what condition your heart is in. 
  • Your length of stay in the hospital may be between six-to-10 days depending on your response to the medication.
  • While you are in the hospital, a heart failure nurse practitioner may visit your room to talk with you.  
  • We will provide you with education to help you learn how to live with heart failure. We may also book a follow up for you at the heart failure clinic at Hotel Dieu Hospital. 

For more information about heart failure, you can read the Heart and Stroke booklet: Living with Heart Failure.