Heart Function Service - frequently asked questions

What is heart failure?

It is the term used when the heart becomes less efficient at pumping blood round the body.

What causes heart failure?

It may result from damage to the heart muscle, most commonly by a heart attack, but sometimes by drinking too much alcohol, a viral infection or by disease of the heart muscle called cardiomyopathy.

It can also be as a result of other conditions which put extra workload on the heart.

For example, high blood pressure, heart valve disease, anaemia or thyroid gland disease.

What are the signs/symptoms of heart failure?

  • Breathlessness
  • Severe tiredness
  • Swelling of feet/ankles
  • Reduced exercise tolerance.

How is heart failure diagnosed?

A physical examination and history will be taken by your Doctor.

Usually an Electrocardiogram (ECG) and chest x-ray and blood tests will be performed.

An echo cardiogram will be required to test the pumping action of the heart which is a type of ultrasound scan.

What medications are used to treat heart failure?

  • Diuretics or water tablets
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Beta blockers
  • Aldosterone antagonists.

What other treatments may be required?

  • Cardiac resynchronisation therapy - a special type of pacemaker
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
  • Heart surgery, for example, a replacement heart valve
  • Heart transplant


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