Heart Failure

Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, is a condition in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood or meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen, especially when the patient is active or exercising. Congestive heart failure is a chronic, long-term condition that may affect the right, left, or both sides of the heart.

There are two types of heart failure:

  • systolic, when the heart muscle cannot pump, or eject, enough  blood out of the heart.
  • diastolic, when the heart muscle is stiff and does not allow the heart to fill up with blood easily.

This compromised pumping action may cause blood to back up in other areas of the body, causing a fluid build-up in the lungs, arms, legs and elsewhere in the body. The lack of oxygen and nutrition being supplied to organs in the body reduces their ability to work properly and may cause organ damage.

The most common cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease (CAD), a narrowing of the  blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Heart failure may also occur when infection weakens the heart muscle, a condition called cardiomyopathy, or as a result of congential heart disease, a heart attack, heart valve disease, and arrhythmia.

How does molecular imaging help people with heart failure?

Molecular and nuclear imaging provides powerful diagnostic and prognostic information on patients with heart failure, including:

Following a heart attack, heart function is assessed using either echocardiography or nuclear imaging.

Molecular and functional imaging procedures assess heart function and provide valuable information on specific biochemical and structural changes in heart tissue including:

  • the extent of scarring
  • degree of coronary artery disease
  • left ventricle remodeling (changes in the size, shape, and function of the heart after injury)
  • the development of congestive heart failure.

Images and information provided by myocardial perfusion imaging, nuclear functional heart study and other molecular imaging procedures help physicians:

  • assess the potential for sudden cardiac death and other cardiac events in patients who have suffered a heart attack or who have chronic heart failure
  • select patients for automatic internal cardiac defibrillators (AICDs).