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    Heart Failure Complications

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    Even if you are treating your heart failure successfully, you may develop a complication that can be serious and life-threatening. It is important to identify complications of heart failure as soon as possible, because some can be extremely serious conditions. You can discuss your complications with your doctor and learn to take the proper steps to prevent them. The table below outlines the complications of heart failure.

    Common complications of heart failure


    What is it?

    What problems does it cause?

    Atrial fibrillation An irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
    • Can make heart failure worse
    • Greatly increases risk of stroke
    • Can cause palpitations
    Ventricular fibrillation or tachycardia Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
    • Syncope (fainting)
    • Palpitations
    • Sudden death
    Kidney failure Reduced functioning of your kidneys
    • Decreased urine output
    • Fatigue, poor appetite, lethargy
    • Ultimately life-threatening


    Decreased oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in red blood cells

    Stroke Your brain is deprived of oxygen because its blood supply has been significantly decreased or cut off.
    • Loss of cognitive or motor function
    • Can be life-threatening
    Heart valve condition (especially mitral regurgitation) A leaky valve reduces the efficiency of the heart's pumping action.
    Cardiac cachexia Unintentional severe weight loss
    • Can require supplemental nutrition
    • Can be life-threatening
    Leg venous stasis and ulcers

    Venous stasis: Your skin thickens and looks shiny or scaly, your hair might also fall out, your skin may also turn brown or reddish.

    Ulcers: Injuries to your swollen legs cause fluid to constantly ooze out of cuts in your skin.

    • Can predispose to cellulitis, infection of the skin

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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