What is Heart Failure?
Heart Failure is a term used to cover a number of heart conditions that affect efficiency of the heart function. The result is a build up of pressure within the heart chambers resulting in accumulation of fluid. Eventually patients experience breathlessness, reduced exercise capacity, fatigue and ankle swelling.
There are different types of heart failure, the most common type in the UK is due to left ventricular systolic dysfunction, where there is impaired contraction of the left ventricle, which is called Heart Failure with reduced Ejection Fraction (HFrEF). Heart failure can also be attributed to impaired relaxation of the left ventricle when the heart muscle is thickened, often as a result of long-standing high blood pressure, which is called heart failure with preserved Ejection Fraction (HFpEF).
Patients can present acutely, becoming unwell very quickly over hours, or can present with chronic decompensation over several weeks to months. Some patients have no symptoms at all. Heart failure is often associated with marked reductions in quality of life and high levels of debility, morbidity and mortality. This imposes a heavy burden not only on patients but also those who care for them.
Survival rates in people with heart failure remain worse than those with many common cancers despite clinical advances over the past two decades. Outcomes are consistently poor for patients who receive suboptimal care but input from the heart failure specialists and prescription of evidence-based heart failure therapies have a substantial prognostic benefit.