Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition where the heart does not have the ability to pump blood, which is different than cardiac arrest. In cardiac arrest, the heart has the ability to pump blood but stops beating anyway.

CHF is different than cardiac arrest. In cardiac arrest, the heart has the ability to pump blood but stops beating anyway.

CHF is usually chronic. It leads to a buildup of blood in the liver, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the extremities, and the lungs.& Right-sided heart failure leads to a blood pool in the GI tract and extremities, while left-sided heart failure leads to a blood pool in the lungs.

In some cases of CHF, the heart can’t pump blood out of its chambers well. In other cases, the heart muscle is stiff and the heart can’t fill with blood easily.

Causes include hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart disease, and cardiomyopathy, which is a disease of the heart muscle.

Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms

Symptoms usually appear gradually, although they can appear suddenly. Common symptoms include:

  • Decreased urine production
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue or fainting
  • Feeling the heart beat (palpitations)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Swelling (edema) of extremities and abdomen
  • Weight gain

Diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure

Your doctor will do a number of tests to diagnose the problem. Tests include an echocardiogram, a noninvasive technique that bounces sound waves from the chest onto the heart to create a moving picture of the heart. It creates a clearer picture than an X-ray can provide.

Other tests your doctor can perform to diagnose CHF include cardiac catheterization, chest CT scan, chest X-ray, and electrocardiogram.

Congestive Heart Failure Treatment Options

CHF can be treated in a number of ways, including the following options.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and stress
  • Reduce fluid intake
  • Reduce the amount of salt in the diet


Improve the heart rate
Lower blood pressure
Stimulates the heart
Reduces water retention
Open arteries and improve blood flow


  • Angioplasty and stenting for patients with coronary artery disease to help the blood flow
  • Pacemaker to improve the heart’s rhythm or assist both sides of the heart in contracting at the same time

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a congestive heart failure expert at UT Southwestern's facilities in Dallas or for more information about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.