Healthy Heart

What Is Right-Sided Congestive Heart Failure?

What is Right-Sided Congestive Heart Failure?

What Is Right-Sided Congestive Heart Failure?

Heart failure is called by other names, such as congestive heart failure (CHF), cardiac failure, left-sided heart failure, and right-sided heart failure.

The heart is an organ that pumps blood to various parts of the body and is a little larger than one’s fist. Blood is pumped carrying oxygen to various parts of the body.

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Right-sided congestive heart failure occurs when the right side of the heart loses its ability to pump blood to the body efficiently.

Congestive heart failure is a recurring condition which progresses with time and decreases the pumping power of the heart. This type of heart failure is also characterized by a radical decline in the heart’s pumping accuracy due to a buildup of fluid around it.

The classification of heart failure depends on what side of the organ it occurs. Both left- and right-sided congestive heart failure can be caused by either one already existing in the heart.

Causes of Right-Sided Congestive Heart Failure

Coronary artery disease is one of the most common causes of heart failure. This occurs in about one in twenty people. But it may be a complication of other conditions, too.

When the right ventricle loses its ability to properly pump blood, the blood sometimes backs up into different areas of the body and produces congestion. This congestion affects many other parts of the body, including the left ventricle.

Another major cause of right-sided congestive heart failure is left-sided heart failure, as well as diseases related to the lungs, such as emphysema and bronchitis.

Pulmonary artery clots, hypertension in the pulmonary arteries, and heart valve disease can also cause right-sided congestive heart failure.

Symptoms of Right-Sided Congestive Heart Failure

Expert Opinions

Experts recommend different tests and exams to better diagnose right-sided congestive heart. Common tests recommended by doctors are:

Physical examinations may uncover indicative abnormalities, including:

  • Enlarged liver
  • Distended neck veins
  • Ankle swelling
  • Abnormal heart sounds, like murmurs
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Weight gain
  • Unusual lung sounds

Lab tests performed to check for this problem include:

All such tests examine the patient’s right-sided congestive heart failure. After going through the reports, the heart specialist will begin treatment and help the patient cope with the disease accordingly.

Treatment of Right-Sided Congestive Heart Failure

Heart failure requires periodic monitoring by one’s healthcare provider. The goal of any doctor while treating this problem is, first and foremost, to control the symptoms caused by right-sided congestive heart failure. The next task is to reduce the heart’s workload as much as possible. After this has been achieved, the final goal is to improve the heart’s ability to function properly. If any disorders are caused while undergoing treatment, these problems will also be addressed.

Some doctors perform valve replacements and other procedures, like bypass surgery and angioplasties, to help patients.

Another treatment option for right-sided congestive heart failure is changing one’s lifestyle, which includes lowering salt intake, stopping consumption of alcohol, and quitting smoking.

Drugs such as Spironolactone, diuretics, and furosemide are often prescribed by doctors to lessen symptoms and help prevent salt retention.

Some patients do not recover after pursuing medications, treatments, and changes in lifestyle, which signifies severe heart failure. In such cases, the only option left is a heart transplant.


Right-sided heart failure is a very serious problem that can affect anyone, which is why it is very important for everyone to know about its prevention.

The greatest preventative care a person can take is to follow all recommendations provided by one’s healthcare provider and hold to certain dietary guidelines related to heart failure, including lowering the intake of salty foods, reducing the use of alcohol, and quitting smoking.

All these preventions can help avoid right-sided congestive heart failure.

How Does the Heart Function?

The heart is divided into four chambers, the left, right, upper, and lower chambers. The upper chambers are called atria, and the lower are called ventricles.

The upper right chamber, or the right atrium, receives impure, deoxygenated blood from the body. It sends it to the right ventricle (the lower right chamber), which purifies it in the lungs. This pure, oxygenated blood reaches the left atrium, where it is sent to the left ventricle. The blood is then distributed to the whole body through the left ventricle.

Through this process, the heart receives deoxygenated blood and sends oxygenated blood to the body. For this to happen, all four chambers have to function well. It is important for the heart to maintain its efficiency, or else all bodily processes become hampered. Any condition meddling with the normal functioning of the heart will result in minor or major heart disease.

What Is Heart Failure?

Heart failure occurs when the heart is not able to pump enough blood to the body. The adult heart pumps almost two gallons of blood every day to meet the demands of the body’s organs.

The disease is a chronic, long-standing condition. Its symptoms, if left untreated, could be detrimental or even deadly.

Initially, the heart will try to make up for the failure through the following means:

  • Enlargement of the heart: To meet the target workload, the heart will enlarge itself so it can pump with more pressure and thus ensure that oxygenated blood reaches the entire body in the required proportions. However, when the heart enlarges itself, the body retains fluid, the lungs become congested with fluid, and the heart beats irregularly. This causes cardiac arrhythmia (Bradycardia/Tachycardia), symptoms of which include dizziness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
  • Increase in muscle mass: By building more muscle mass, the heart can contract forcefully and thus pump more blood, at least initially.
  • Forceful pumping: By pumping more forcefully, the heart can output more blood.

In addition to the heart, the body itself will also try to make up for the failure through the following methods:

  • Blood vessels narrow or decrease in width. Thus, they increase pressure so that blood can sufficiently reach the body.
  • The body diverts blood from less important tissues and organs, like the kidneys, and sends blood to more important organs, like the brain and heart.

These processes mask the heart failure as long as possible. Once they are not able to make up for the loss, the heart failure begins to manifest. Such masking mechanisms fail with increasing age, and thus the elderly are predominantly affected.

This disease can affect and involve the left, right, or both sides of the heart. When it affects the right side of the heart, it’s called right-sided heart failure.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Failure

  • Fluid build-up in the lungs
  • Fainting
  • Edema (excess fluid build-up in the feet, ankles, and legs, leading to swollen extremities)
  • Tiredness 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Frequent urge to urinate

Causes of Heart Failure

The causes of heart failure include:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Certain infections
  • Previous history of a heart ailment or congenital defect
  • Lung disease (chronic)
  • Heart valve disease (stenosis)
  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib)

Risk Factors for Heart Failure

The following are risk factors for heart failure:

  • Age (65 years and above)
  • Diabetics
  • Race (African Americans are more prone to heart failure than others)
  • Use of some medications, like NSAIDs
  • Overweight people
  • Long-time abuse of alcohol, tobacco, or both
  • History of heart attack or people who previously had a heart attack

Diagnosis of Heart Failure

Because this condition is hard to predict, a proper diagnosis at the right time could prove lifesaving. Though the tests will depend on the individual condition, commonly the doctor will ask for:

  • Tests that check for arterial blockages around the heart (cardiac catheterization)
  • Physical examinations, like the stress test, which evaluates the performance of the heart under different conditions
  • A routine EKG/ECG, which checks for abnormalities in the heartbeat or rhythm
  • Blood tests for sugar, cholesterol, thyroid function, and infections to check for any underlying conditions
  • An echocardiogram, which can determine any abnormal change in the heart’s anatomy

Treatment for Heart Failure

Unfortunately, there is no cure for heart failure. However, with the following treatments, many can lead healthy, full lives:

  • Treating the cause of heart failure
  • Medications
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Heart transplantation, if needed