flows into the left ventricle which pumps it out to the body to deliver oxygen
But in heart failure, the heart can’t pump the way it should. The blood and oxygen don’t get to the organs. And blood backs up in the heart.
What Happens When Blood Backs Up in the Heart?
If blood backs up in the heart, there’s no room for the blood that’s returning from the body and lungs. So that blood stays in the blood vessels. Some fluids from the blood leak out into the tissues. This leads to swelling in the legs and ankles (called edema) and fluid in the lungs (called pulmonary edema).
What Causes Congestive Heart Failure?
CHF in children usually happens because:
Too much blood flows through the heart (for example, from a congenital heart defect or severe anemia).
The heart isn't pumping normally (for example, from a congenital heart defect or cardiomyopathy).
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure?
In its early stages, congestive heart failure might not cause any symptoms. As it gets worse, it can make a child:
not feed and grow well
have swollen ankles, feet, or belly
How Is Congestive Heart Failure Diagnosed?
To diagnose CHF, doctors do an exam and run tests such as:
other imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
How Is Congestive Heart Failure Treated?
To treat CHF, doctors give medicines to:
help the heart beat stronger
help the heart beat at the right rate
reduce the amount of fluid in the body
lower the blood pressure so the heart doesn’t have to work so hard to push blood out of the heart into the blood vessels
Some kids might need a pacemaker to help their heart beat at the right rate. Doctors do surgery to place this small device under the child’s skin and muscle. It uses electrical impulses to control the speed and rhythm of the heartbeat.
If heart failure keeps getting worse, doctors can use one of these until the child gets better:
Sometimes, treating the cause of the CHF (such as surgery to fix a congenital heart defect) cures the heart failure.
How Can Parents Help?
If your child has congestive heart failure, it can feel overwhelming. Learn as much as you can about the condition, its cause, and its treatments. This will help you work with the care team and better help your child cope. Be sure to ask when you have questions.
To find support, talk to anyone on the care team. Resources are available to help you and your child. You can also learn more online at: