Heart Failure


​Heart failure is a condition caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure. It usually occurs because the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff to work properly. If you have heart failure, it does not mean your heart is about to stop working. It means your heart needs some support to do its job, usually in the form of medicines. Heart failure can be aggravated by conditions like high blood pressure and arterial blockages, which weaken the heart and inhibit it from functioning properly.  ​

Symptoms which can be attributed to heart failure can have many other causes, only some of which are serious. Symptoms of heart failure may be misdiagnosed as another less serious condition. 

The symptoms of heart failure can develop quickly (acute heart failure). If this happens, you will need to be treated in hospital. But they can also develop gradually (chronic heart failure).

Common symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnoea) when you exert yourself or when you lie down

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

  • Reduced ability to exercise

  • Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm

  • Increased need to urinate at night

  • Swelling of your abdomen (ascites)

  • Sudden weight gain from fluid retention

  • Lack of appetite and nausea

  • Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness

  • Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy sputum

  • Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a <heart attack>

​If you are facing any of the symptoms listed above, contact your doctor immediately. The Heart, Lungs and Vascular Services at The Aga Khan University Hospital is amongst the nation’s best. Rest assured that you will receive quality healthcare at treatment at our facilities.​​

​Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here ​are some tips to help get you started.​

In order to treat heart failure more effectively, a comprehensive diagnostic plan needs to be carried out. This will include several tests, some of which are outlined below:

Blood tests: This will be necessary to determine that keys organs like your liver and kidneys are working as they should. This will also help to look for any other heart related diseases that may be affecting your health.

  • Diagnostic ECG (Electrocardiogram): A tool to measure the electrical and other functions of the heart

  • X-ray. Your doctor will examine the state of your lungs with the help of the X-ray.
  • Clinical imaging tests: these include:

  • Echocardiogram. This test helps to determine whether you have systolic heart failure (heart pumps the blood slower than usual) or a diastolic heart failure (heart fills with blood inadequately, at high pressure). Through an echocardiogram, your doctor can also see the shape and size of your heart and its performance. 

  • Cardiac CT (Computerized Tomography) scan:  this is done to acquire images of your chest and heart   to diagnose heart structural and functional abnormalities.

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): this test also takes images of your heart using magnetic signals to diagnose heart structural and functional abnormalities. 

  • Coronary angiogram. This test identifies blockages in arteries which are critical in providing blood to the heart. 

Heart failure is usually caused by factors such as decreased blood flow to the heart or faster heartbeats than normal. In order to effectively treat the disease, you may require consistent care in the form of medicines and, if needed, surgery. 

  • Medication: Based on your reports, your doctor will be able to better suggest treatment. Usually, doctors prescribe medications which lower normalize blood pressure, control abnormal heart beats and improve the performance of your heart. 

  • Devices: Based on your reports, your doctor may refer you to a cardiac specialist (electrophysiologist) who may insert either insert a

  • Biventricular pacemaker too assist the function of a weak heart or

  • An ICD (Implantable  Cardioverter Defibrillator) too protect the weak heart from life-threatening abnormal rhythms (arrhythmia)

  • Surgery

Based on your reports, your doctor might suggest any of the following surgeries:

  • Coronary bypass surgery: This is for critical heart failure patients. In this surgery, blood vessels are redirected to the heart by bypassing blocked arteries, thereby allowing adequate blood flow to your heart.

  • Assist devices/artificial heart pumps: these devices, like VAD (Ventricular Assist Devices), are attached to the heart and designed to help your heart function better.  

  • Heart valve repair and/or replacement: If the diagnosis identifies that the cause of heart failure was a damaged heart valve; your doctor will recommend replacement or preferably repair of the faulty valve. 

  • Heart Remodelling: when the heart is deformed or has a dilated portion causing it to pump inefficiently, Remodelling operations can be done to restore its geometry so it pumps out more blood per beat. 

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

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The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.