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What is the Prognosis for Congestive Heart Failure?

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/31/2010

Is congestive heart failure terminal? This is a very common question and here you will learn the answer.

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    Congestive heart failure is a condition in which the heart is not able to pump a sufficient amount of blood throughout the rest of the body. This is a serious condition, but is congestive heart failure terminal? This condition can develop suddenly, but it is usually a long-term, chronic condition.

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    Prognosis

    It is estimated that as many as 40 percent of patients will die from sudden cardiac death. Approximately five million United States residents have this condition. Approximately 300,000 patients per year die from this condition. Many patients will extend their lives with lifestyle changes, medications, and treating any underlying conditions.

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    Factors in Life Expectancy

    Just a few years ago, the average life expectancy for patients with this condition was just five years, but recent medical advancements make it possible to greatly extend a patient's life. Keeping the underlying condition under control is essential in extending life. The most common causes of this condition can be well-controlled for patients and they include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and heart muscle damage. Those who have diabetes, are morbidly obese, smoke cigarettes, use cocaine, or abuse alcohol have a very high risk of developing this condition. Controlling diabetes, losing weight, and stopping the use of cigarettes, cocaine, and alcohol can help to increase life expectancy.

    Treating this condition effectively also plays a major role in whether congestive heart failure is terminal. ACE inhibitors, digitalis glycosides, beta-blockers, diuretics, and angiotensin receptor blockers are commonly used to treat this condition. Pacemakers and certain surgeries, such as coronary bypass surgery, heart valve surgery, and angioplasty can be beneficial to some patients.

    A heart transplant may be necessary for patients not responding to other treatments methods. As a patient is awaiting a transplant, left ventricular devices or intra-aortic balloon pumps can often help them.

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    Stages

    There are four different stages of heart failure. These stages range from being at a high risk for this condition to being in the end stage. The stages include:

    Stage A: The patient does not yet have a heart structural disorder, but is at a very high risk of developing this disease. Those in this stage have a high risk due to having coronary artery disease, a history of abusing alcohol or drugs, a family history of cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, diabetes, or a history of rheumatic fever. Other medical conditions, and lifestyle and environmental factors, can also put a person at a high risk.

    Stage B: During this stage, the patient has not developed symptoms yet, but they have a structural disorder. Examples include having a structural heart disease, such as heart fibrosis, previous heart attack, left heart enlargement, or valve disease.

    Stage C: During this stage, the patient has underlying structural heart disease and current or past symptoms of this condition.

    Stage D: During this stage, also referred to as the end-stage, patients are often hospitalized and will require special treatments, such as an artificial heart, heart transplant, LVAD, inotropic infusions, or hospice care.

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    Resources

    MedlinePlus. (2010). Heart Failure. Retrieved on August 25, 2010 from MedlinePlus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/heartfailure.html

    Aetna InteliHealth. (2008). Heart Failure. Retrieved on August 25, 2010 from Aetna InteliHealth: http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/c/9339/10104.html#prognosis


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