Left Ventricular Systolic Dysfunction: Learn the Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

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What is Left Ventricular Systolic Dysfunction?

Before it can be fully explained what left ventricular systolic dysfunction is, it needs to be explained that this condition is one of two forms of heart failure. The other form is diastolic dysfunction. The difference between these two types of heart failure is:

Systolic dysfunction (also known as left ventricular systolic dysfunction) is when the heart is unable to pump out as much blood as a normal heart would be able to do, causing the heart to contract less forcefully. This causes more blood to remain in the lower heart chamber (ventricles). The blood accumulates in the veins, lungs or in some cases both.

Diastolic dysfunction is when the heart loses its ability to relax, as a normal heart would be able to. When this condition happens, the heart is unable to fill with blood. Sometimes this causes the heart to over compensate by pumping out a higher volume of blood than a normal heart would. The blood accumulates in the lungs and veins.

These two conditions can occur separately or they can occur at the same time. A physician and/or cardiologist would be able to distinguish which type that a patient is suffering from.

What Are the Causes?

Several disorders can cause systolic dysfunction. These disorders can affect the entire, heart or one area of the heart. The heart can stop contracting normally and the results can end up in heart failure.

Here are some of the disorders that can directly cause systolic dysfunction to occur:

  • Heart Valve Disorders such as stenosis of a valve
  • Coronary Heart Disease that reduces oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart muscle
  • Myocarditis caused by a virus, bacteria or other infection
  • Some Lung Disorders such as Pulmonary Hypertension
  • Prolonged changes in heart rhythms that interfere with the electrical conduction system
  • Several small blood clots or a pulmonary embolism
  • High Blood Pressure

Here are some of the disorders that can indirectly cause systolic dysfunction to occur:

  • Anemia due to causes such as chronic bleeding from stomach ulcers
  • Hyperthyroidism because it causes the heart to become over stimulated
  • Hypothyroidism because less thyroid hormone is produced, causing weakening of the heart muscles. Muscles depend on this hormone to function properly

Kidney failure strains the heart because the kidneys cannot remove the extra fluid from the bloodstream, causing the heart to pump larger amounts of blood. When this happens, the heart cannot keep up with the volume of blood being pumped into it.

What Are the Symptoms?

When this type of heart failure occurs, it causes fluid buildup in the lungs and the person experiences shortness of breath. This can occur when the person is lying down or up walking around. People may also experience feeling tired and weak when trying to perform regular activities because their muscles are not receiving the amount of blood that is required.

In severe cases of heart failure, the person may experience rapid deep breathing, then the breathing may become very slow and sometimes cease for seconds at a time. This can cause bluish like skin and feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and suffocation. There may be bronchospasms and wheezing.

When a person is in heart failure, blood clots can occur, blocking an artery that leads to the brain, resulting in a stroke. Sometimes the blood clots can block other areas of the body too. This can cause decline in mental function and it can cause depression.

How is This Form Of Heart Failure Treated?

The left ventricular systolic dysfunction is a form of heart failure, however, it can be treated with lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes include a proper healthy diet and an exercise program. The person would need to stop smoking and drinking alcohol.

Treatment for the causes of the heart dysfunction is necessary too. Medication may be prescribed to treat the conditions such as thyroid dysfunction, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, anemia, infection, or kidney disorders.

For more serious heart failure, surgery or angioplasty may be necessary. Sometimes radiation therapy is used to treat an overactive thyroid gland. Oxygen may be prescribed for pulmonary edema.

On a Special Note

It is very important for people who have been diagnosed with systolic dysfunction, to follow up with their physician, and report any new symptoms that may arise. Each person may experience different symptoms, depending on what the causes were for their heart failure.


American Academy of Family Physicians

Pubmed.gov National Library of Medicine British Medical Journal


Merck Manual Online