Skip to content

Heart Failure Complications

Font Size

Topic Overview

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


Decreased oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in red blood cells

StrokeYour 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 cachexiaUnintentional 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.
Next Article:

Heart Failure Complications Topics

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
Remember your finger
Are You Getting More Forgetful?
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.