Heart failure is when the heart cannot work as well as it should. Problems caused by the failure will depend on the area of the heart that is affected. For example:
If fluid has backed up in the body or lungs it is called congestive heart failure. A person can also have failure on both sides of the heart. In time, the poor flow of blood will damage other organs like the kidneys.
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Heart failure in children is often caused by a problem with how blood moves through the heart. The heart muscle has to work harder than normal to make blood flow. This may be caused by birth defects, such as:
Heart failure may also be caused by a problem with the heart itself. This is not common in children. This type of heart failure may be caused by:
In some children, the cause is not known.
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
Problems can vary and can be mild to severe.
If blood is backing up in the right side of the heart, it can cause swelling in places such as the feet, ankles, lower legs, belly, or eyelids. If blood is backing up in the left side of the heart, it can make it hard to breathe.
Other problems may be:
Newborns may also have problems with feeding.
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical will be done.
Blood and urine tests will be done to look for signs of heart failure.
The heart may be examined. This can be done with:
The cause will need to be treated. It may stop or slow heart failure.
Supportive care may also be needed to manage health problems, such as:
Medicines to decrease the workload on the heart. Options are:
Oxygen therapy may be used to increase the amount of oxygen in the body. Choices are:
Devices may be placed in the body to support the heart. Choices are:
A heart transplant may be needed if other methods do not help. This replaces a diseased heart with a healthy heart from a donor.
There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.
American Heart Association
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Heart failure in children and adolescents. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/what-is-heart-failure/heart-failure-in-children-and-adolescents. Accessed December 30, 2020.
Hsu DT, Pearson GD. Heart failure in children. Part I: History, etiology, and pathophysiology. Circulation: Heart failure. 2009;2:63-70. Available at: http://circheartfailure.ahajournals.org/content/2/1/63. Accessed December 30, 2020.
Mechanical circulatory support for heart failure. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/mechanical-circulatory-support-for-heart-failure. Accessed December 30, 2020.
Peura JL, Colvin-Adams M, et al; American Heart Association Heart Failure and Transplantation Committee of the Council on Clinical Cardiology, Council on Cardiopulmonary, Critical Care, Perioperative and Resuscitation, Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young, Council on Cardiovascular Nursing, Council on Cardiovascular Radiology and Intervention, Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia. Recommendations for the use of mechanical circulatory support: device strategies and patient selection: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012 Nov 27;126(22):2648-2667.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC Last Updated: 10/19/2021