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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, like& 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 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. It can also cause liver problems or fluid build-up in the lungs.
  • 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.

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 very a temporary condition (lasting for days) or persist for a prolonged period of time (for months or years, and 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, including medications to lower the workload of the heart and help the heart pump.

When you come to Children's, a team of people will take care of your child. Along with your child's cardiologist, you are connected with cardiac intensive care doctors, 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.

Since 1907, Children's has been treating children only. 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. Our expertise in pediatrics truly makes a difference for our patients and families.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

Should your child see a doctor?

Find out by selecting your child’s symptom or health condition in the list below:

Spring 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Cold Water Shock Can Quickly Cause Drowning
  • E-Cigs Are Addictive and Harmful
  • Bystanders Can Intervene to Stop Bullying

Download Spring 2014 (PDF)