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How is congestive heart failure diagnosed?

Congestive heart failure is a clinical diagnosis. The symptoms described above are important clues to the problem. A good physical examination is of major importance. Doctors can usually make a diagnosis of congestive heart failure based upon a physical exam and the symptoms alone. During the physical exam, the doctor will check for a weak or rapid pulse rate, enlargement of the heart, swollen neck veins, swelling of the liver, fluid retention, sounds of fluid in the lungs, and abnormal

heart sounds. To confirm the diagnosis, he or she may perform a number of tests, including chest x-rays, blood tests, 12-lead electrocardiograms (EKGs), urinalysis, and exercise stress tests. Tests such as electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and angiography create images of the heart's activity and are also helpful in the diagnosis.

Congestive heart failure is easily confused with other illnesses that cause breathing difficulties, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema, and asthma. Talking to a medical professional, along with a physical exam and tests available only at a medical office or hospital, is necessary to make an exact diagnosis. When symptoms suggest congestive heart failure, the diagnosis usually is confirmed by physical examination, patient history, and various tests to detect abnormal function of the left ventricle and/or heart valves. When symptoms suggest congestive heart failure, the diagnosis usually is confirmed by physical examination, patient history, and various tests to detect abnormal function of the left ventricle and/or heart valves.

During physical examination, the physician looks for an underlying cause and assesses heart function. A stethoscope is used to detect abnormal heart sounds (murmurs) that may indicate a leaky or narrowed (stenotic) valve, and to detect fluid accumulation in the lungs. The physician also looks for enlarged (distended) veins in the neck and for swelling (edema) in the legs (particularly the ankles and feet) and/or the abdomen.

Useful diagnostic tests include the electrocardiogram (ECG) and chest x-ray to explore the possibility of previous heart attacks, arrhythmia, heart enlargement, and fluid in and around the lungs. Perhaps the single most useful diagnostic test is the echocardiogram, in which ultrasound is used to image the heart muscle, valvular structures, and blood flow patterns. The echocardiogram is very helpful in diagnosing heart muscle weakness. In addition, the test can suggest possible causes for the heart muscle weakness (e.g., prior heart attack, severe valvular abnormalities). Virtually all patients in whom the diagnosis of congestive heart failureF is suspected should ideally undergo echocardiography at some point.

More information on congestive heart failure

What is congestive heart failure? - Congestive heart failure (CHF) is the inability of the heart to pump blood effectively to the body. Heart failure is a degenerative condition caused by weakening of the heart muscle.
What causes congestive heart failure? - Congestive heart failure can be caused by a number of conditions that damage the heart muscle, including a heart attack or heart infection; coronary artery disease.
What're the symptoms of congestive heart failure? - Congestive heart failure symptoms and signs include shortness of breath with minimal exertion, fatigue, abrupt shortness of breath at night, occasional wheezing, and cough.
How is congestive heart failure diagnosed? - Congestive heart failure is a clinical diagnosis. Diagnosis usually is confirmed by physical examination, patient history, and various tests.
What treatments cure congestive heart failure? - The treatment of congestive heart failure focused on treating the symptoms and signs of congestive heart failure and preventing the progression of disease.
What heart failure medications are available? - Heart failure medications include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), diuretics (water pills).
How to prevent congestive heart failure? - Congestive heart failure can be prevented through adjusting diet, monitoring weight, onitor your weight, fluid intake, smoking cessation.
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