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Heart Failure

Heart failure is also called congestive heart failure. With heart failure, the heart tries to pump more blood, but the muscle walls of the heart become weaker over time. When this happens, fluid collects in the lungs or other parts of the body. The fluid can cause congestion, making it difficult to breath. People with heart failure may also have swelling in the hands, legs, feet and abdomen. Heart failure affects about five million people in the United States and is the leading cause of death for hospital admissions for people age 65 and older.

These quality measures show some of the standards of care provided, if appropriate, to someone who has heart failure:

  • Assessment of left ventricular function
  • Complete discharge instructions
  • Advice to quit smoking

Assessment of left ventricular function


Assessment of left ventricular function or the heart's ability to pump blood effectively, is the standard of care for heart failure patients. Left ventricular function assessment is the single most important diagnostic test for patients with heart failure.

Why is this important?
The proper treatment for heart failure depends on what area of your heart is affected. An important test is to check how your heart is pumping, called an "evaluation of the left ventricular systolic function." It can tell your healthcare provider whether the left side of your heart is pumping properly. Other ways to check on how your heart is pumping include:

  • Your medical history
  • A physical examination
  • Listening to your heart sounds
  • Other tests as ordered by a physician (like an ECG (electrocardiogram), chest x-ray, blood work and an echocardiogram)