Heart and Blood Conditions

Congestive Heart Failure

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure happens when the heart can't pump enough blood to the body's other organs. Many things can cause heart failure, such as congenital heart defects, heart valve disease and abnormal heart muscle.

In heart failure, the heart still works but not as well as it should. This can lead to different problems, depending on the cause.

  • If the left ventricle can't pump well, blood flow from the heart to the body may be slow. This can cause fluid to backup in the lungs, which can cause breathing problems. It can also lead to problems with other organs in the body, such as the kidneys or intestines, if these organs don't receive enough blood flow from the heart.
  • If the right ventricle can't pump well, blood flow from the heart to the lungs may be slow. This can cause fluid to backup in the tissues, which can appear as edema of the body or swelling of the liver.

Many different problems with the heart structure can lead to heart failure. The exact effects can depend on the structural problems.

Congestive Heart Failure in Children

Birth defects are the most common cause for heart failure in babies and children. Defects like aortic stenosis , hypoplastic left heart syndrome , coarctation of the aorta , ventricular septal defect , atrioventricular septal defect , and others sometimes lead to heart failure. They can cause heart failure because they cause problems with blood flow into, out of or within the heart.

Diseases of the heart muscle, such as myocarditis or cardiomyopathy , may cause heart failure. These diseases can make the heart muscle unable to pump the way it should.

Heart failure can happen if the heart beats too fast or too slow.

Heart failure may also happen after open-heart repair of birth defects. This may be a temporary condition (lasting for days) or may persist for a prolonged period (months or years, or, in some cases permanently).

Congestive Heart Failure at Seattle Children's

Our heart team has treated many children with congestive heart failure. We have extensive experience with the treatment these patients may require, which ranges from medicines to lower the workload of the heart and help the heart pump, to a ventricular assist device (or mechanical pump).

When you come to Seattle Children's, a team of people will take care of your child. Along with your child's cardiologist, you are connected with cardiac intensivists , neonatologists , nurses, child life specialists, social workers and others, if their expertise is needed. We work together to meet all of your child's health needs and help your family through this experience.

Seattle Children's has been treating children since 1907. Our team members are trained in their fields and also in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, the doctors who give your child anesthesia are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra years of training in how to take care of kids. Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age.

Contact Us

Contact the Heart Center at 206-987-2015 for a cardiac referral, a second opinion or more information.