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Heart Failure Types - Topic Overview

Heart failure means that your heart muscle does not pump as much blood as your body needs. Failure doesn't mean that your heart has stopped. It means that your heart is not pumping as well as it should.

There is more than one type of heart failure, so you might hear your doctor call it different names. The types are based on what problem in the heart is causing it to not pump blood as well. More than one problem might be causing your heart failure.

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Understanding Heart Failure -- the Basics

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump blood effectively to the lungs or the rest of the body.  This can be because the person has developed a weakened heart muscle or because the heart muscle has thickened or stiffened, making it difficult to fill the heart and backing up blood into the lungs. With heart failure, the weakened heart pumps less blood than usual, causing the kidneys and adrenal glands to produce chemicals that help the body to hold onto salt and water.  In addition,...

Read the Understanding Heart Failure -- the Basics article > >

People with heart failure can have more than one type. For example, left-sided heart failure can cause right-sided heart failure. In such cases, heart failure doesn't have more than one cause, but rather the heart failure is affecting the heart in more than one way. In other cases, there may be two separate problems, such as mitral regurgitation causing left-sided heart failure but tricuspid regurgitation causing right-sided heart failure.

Left-sided heart failure

For most people, heart failure affects the left side of the heart. This is the side that pumps blood to the body. The heart's lower chamber, called the left ventricle, either cannot pump blood as well, or it cannot fill with blood normally.

  • Systolic heart failure happens when your heart pumps less blood than normal to the body. It is called systolic because your ventricle doesn't squeeze forcefully enough during systole, which is the phase of your heartbeat when your heart pumps blood.
  • Diastolic heart failure happens when the left ventricle cannot fill properly with blood during the diastolic (filling) phase.

Right-sided heart failure

Right-sided heart failureRight-sided heart failure means that the right side of the heart is not pumping blood to the lungs as well as normal.

High-output heart failure

High-output heart failureHigh-output heart failure can happen when the body's need for blood is unusually high. The heart may be working well otherwise, but it cannot pump out enough blood to keep up with this extra need. This type happens to a small number of people who have heart failure.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    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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