We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
Heart failure can affect more than just the heart.
John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Heart failure is a chronic condition caused by a weakened heart muscle. As heart failure progresses, the heart's ability to pump blood to the body progressively deteriorates and other organs suffer as a result. The liver and kidneys are especially susceptible to damage due to heart failure. People with heart failure who are at high risk for organ damage may eventually require a heart transplant or a mechanical device to help the heart pump blood to the body.
Coronary artery disease, viral infections, genetic disorders, substance abuse, certain medications and various other medical conditions can all result in heart failure -- a condition characterized by a weakened heart muscle that cannot pump strongly enough to keep blood flowing normally throughout the body. Sluggish blood flow causes fluid to leak into the lungs and body tissues, such as the feet and ankles. The kidneys and other organs receive inadequate blood flow due to the sluggish pumping action of the heart. The liver, on the other hand, typically becomes congested as excess blood backs up in the lungs and the right side of the heart.
Under normal circumstances, blood travels from the liver to the right side of the heart and then to the lungs. Once the blood has been infused with oxygen in the lungs, it is pumped out to the rest of the body by the left side of the heart. With heart failure, the heart's inability to pump blood efficiently leads to a backup of blood in the lungs and, if left untreated, a buildup of fluid in the liver. Longstanding fluid accumulation causes scarring in the liver and a condition known as cardiac cirrhosis. Like other forms of cirrhosis, cardiac cirrhosis results in progressive loss of liver function and, ultimately, liver failure.
Though the kidneys are small organs, they typically receive about 25 percent of the blood pumped from the heart. As a result, the kidneys are particularly sensitive to inadequate blood flow due to heart failure. Initially, signs of kidney damage may be subtle, but lab tests generally reveal abnormalities. As kidney function worsens, a disorder called cardiorenal syndrome occurs. Cardiorenal syndrome reflects a significant decline in kidney function related to advanced heart failure. Poor kidney function can make heart failure itself more difficult to treat as the kidneys become resistant to diuretics, a mainstay of heart failure treatment.
Prevention and Management
In its early stages, heart failure is often a highly treatable condition. Taking heart failure medications as prescribed and making dietary adjustments as recommended by a cardiologist are essential for avoiding complications such as liver and kidney disease. In rare cases, people with progressive heart failure and advanced liver or kidney disease may be candidates for a combined heart/kidney or heart/liver transplant.