There are several ways to answer that question. First and foremost: It is a type of heart disease where the heart gives out, no longer able to efficiently pump blood throughout the body. Specifically, biventricular heart failure occurs when both the left side and right side of the heart give out, as opposed to just one side. This can happen for any number of reasons including having had a previous heart attack, high blood pressure, complications related to atrial fibrillation, due to excessive alcohol use, or cardiomyopathy of an unknown cause. Many cases also occur when one side of the heart gives out, slowly putting pressure on the opposite side of the heart, which subsequently leads to biventricular heart failure.
Millions of people from around the world suffer from biventricular heart failure, a progressive and chronic disease. It is important to understand that biventricular heart failure, while a serious ailment is a condition from which one can recover. The heart may have been damaged and weakened, but this damage can be managed and it is also possible to strengthen the heart through various lifestyle changes and treatments. This article delves into what biventricular heart failure is, seeking to identify the causes, symptoms, and treatments associated with the condition. Though it is a highly serious condition, more people survive biventricular heart failure today than ever before and more people with damaged hearts are living longer.
Defining Biventricular Heart Failure
The heart has two ventricles – a left ventricle and a right ventricle. What pumps through the left ventricle must also pump through the right. The left ventricle works harder to pump blood than the right, which is why the left ventricle is more likely to fail than the right. When both ventricles fail, the heart fails. The result of this is that the heart can no longer pump enough blood to provide oxygen and nutrients to parts of your body like the kidneys, liver, and brain.
It is important to distinguish what biventricular heart failure is and what it is not, when understanding the condition. What biventricular heart failure is not is when the heart muscle dies altogether, known as myocardial infarction, or when the blood flow stops altogether, otherwise known as a cardiac arrest. Biventricular heart failure symptoms can be somewhat difficult to pinpoint directly to biventricular heart failure itself as these symptoms are identical to what is felt in other conditions such as obesity, kidney failure, liver problems, and thyroid disease among others.
Biventricular heart failure symptoms are also highly similar to symptoms of right-sided heart failure. For example, edema, otherwise known as fluid retainment in the legs, is highly common and one of the several symptoms of biventricular heart failure that one is likely to experience. Sometimes edema can lead to dry skin due to the pressure that is put on the surrounding tissue. An eczema-type rash can lead to potential further complications by an ulcer that might not heal. This fluid retention will also be felt in the organs, which could lead to other complications as they continue to grow and gain in weight. The swelling of these could potentially lead to the expansion of the abdominal wall as well. As evidenced, biventricular heart failure is a condition with many potential complications and, in and of itself, biventricular heart failure is a complication from previous trauma to the heart. Therefore know that biventricular heart failure cannot be separated from its symptoms or from the lifestyle that is being led by the patient. The condition is likely to be interconnected with various other conditions and/or health issues.
Biventricular Heart Failure Causes
The causes of biventricular heart failure vary. High blood pressure is perhaps the most common cause of any type of heart failure, making this all the more important to monitor for patients who have pre-existing diseases of the heart valves. If one has previously experienced ischemic heart disease, that is if a clot has occurred in one of the coronary arteries, the damage that this can cause to the muscles of the heart can later cause heart failure. There are approximately fifteen million new cases of heart failure that occur every year worldwide, and biventricular heart failure makes up a significant percentage of these.
Every case of biventricular heart failure is going to have its own unique causes. Finding out what the causes of biventricular heart failure are for a patient is to be able to diagnose a successful treatment plan. Internal causes such as disease or a birth defect are far more difficult to control than external factors such as diet and exercise. What biventricular heart failure is, is effectively the most extreme form of heart failure, in turn making it unlikely to present itself without other conditions present. There are a number of conditions that weaken or damage the heart over time, eventually leading to some form of heart failure. The heart is typically equipped to adapt to some of these conditions, however there does come a point where it will inevitably give out. The end stages of one’s heart giving out is biventricular heart failure.
An otherwise healthy person can be struck with biventricular heart failure depending on a number of factors. The hereditary nature of heart strength plays an important role in addition to unexpected, undiagnosed events such as certain infections, an allergic reaction, a sudden blood clot, viruses that are damaging to the heart, or an irregular heartbeat.
Biventricular Heart Failure Symptoms
Biventricular heart failure symptoms include most commonly a shortness of breath, excessive tiredness, and leg swelling. Evidently the shortness of breath is the symptom most easily identifiable, oftentimes causing problems when one engages with exercise, while lying down, or if one finds it difficult to sleep due to these breathing issues. If biventricular heart failure symptoms become apparent while exercising or attempting to sleep, it is important to seek the help of a medical professional immediately. If a person’s left or right ventricle fail, and it is left undetected or untreated, it is also common to have that failure progress to both ventricles ultimately producing biventricular heart failure. The stress of one ventricle failing oftentimes produces conditions such as pulmonary hypertension and/or pulmonary edema, increasing the likelihood of biventricular heart failure developing.
Generally, symptoms of biventricular heart failure are sudden and come on quick. If there is sudden fluid retainment, this is one area that requires immediate attention. Other symptoms of biventricular heart failure might include a faster than normal heartbeat, coughing and wheezing, spitting up pink phlegm, or a decreased ability to concentrate. As stated, it can be difficult to isolate these symptoms from other conditions. Ultimately, the faster that these symptoms are identified, the faster that treatment can be sought. Particularly with the elderly population, this can prove to be a challenge. It is estimated that there is an average delay time of 14 hours from when a person first begins to notice symptoms to when treatment is sought.
When one seeks treatment for biventricular heart failure, this will often begin with a physical exam meant to detect possible congestion and/or abnormal heart rhythms. There will likely be a combination of tests ordered to ensure that this is in fact biventricular heart failure. These are likely to include a chest x-ray to better examine the heart and lungs, blood tests to examine the liver, kidney and thyroid functions, a stress test, an electrocardiogram or a CT scan or MRI. Depending upon what is most appropriate for your situation, these are some of the steps recommended towards diagnosis.
Biventricular Heart Failure Treatment
Biventricular heart failure treatment is ultimately dependent upon the severity of the disease and the exact. To a person who has experienced mild heart failure, a combination of medications and lifestyle changes related to physical exercise, dietary changes, and the elimination of smoking may be all that is recommended. The nature of biventricular heart failure treatment oftentimes requires far more intervention involving potentially angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, aldosterone antagonists, hydralazine with a nitrate, and potentially implanted devices such as a pacemaker or a cardiac defibrillator. Those in the most severe cases might be recommended a heart transplant or a ventricular assist device.
With regards to any recovery from biventricular heart failure, prescription medications are going to play an important role in relaxing the heart, assisting it to function better and to rebuild its strength. No matter the severity, lifestyle changes are strong recommended. If a patient continues to smoke as an example, following biventricular heart failure, the condition is only bound to return. It is important to eliminate smoking and reduce all other potential triggers. Mild exercise will be used to lower blood pressure and lose weight.\
If it is highly serious, there are a number of surgeries on the table that may be used to treat biventricular heart failure providing immediate relief. For example, heart valve replacement or repair may be recommended however is oftentimes not used due to both valves failing. Coronary bypass surgery is another option, removing a blood vessel from another part of your body to be used to work around a clogged artery. An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator is sometimes implanted under the skin, similar to a pacemaker. This device is used to shock the heart back to normal when the rhythm begins to deviate dangerously. Other surgery-based options include heart pumps, cardiac resynchronization therapy, and a heart transplant.
Understanding Biventricular Heart Failure
Developing biventricular heart failure treatment, understand that heart failure is a progressive disease. It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions as closely as possible and to know that what biventricular heart failure is is a lifelong condition. There are many things that can be done to provide a positive long-term outlook but ultimately this will be a challenge to the body that a patient must be aware of.
Moving forward following a biventricular heart failure, the focus must be on improving overall health, addressing the root cause of the condition. Many people who have had a biventricular heart failure event have gone on or continued to live long, meaningful lives, feeling healthy and good about themselves while still taking the recommended heart medications or living with some of the implanted medical devices mentioned above. In the event that biventricular heart failure leads to damage in the kidneys or liver, this understandable complicates matters. In addition, it is more common to have blood clots following such an event. Even so, it is still possible to continue living a comfortable life as long as one watches their diet, takes in the appropriate amount of exercise, and makes those lifestyle changes to be able to sustain themselves in the long-term.