What is acute heart failure?
Piedmont Heart Institute

Acute heart failure usually occurs with a sudden deterioration of heart function as a result of a heart attack. It may also occur from sudden valve dysfunction or electrical disturbance.

More commonly, however, acute failure is superimposed on more chronic heart failure which may be insidious until which time it becomes acutely evident.

Joan Haizlip, MSN
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Acute heart failure happens when your heart suddenly stops being able to pump blood effectively.  The heart is basically a pump.  If the pump fails, or weakens, blood cannot be pumped to the rest of the body and signs and symptoms of heart failure occur:

  • shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • unable to lie flat (orthopnea)
  • swelling in the feet and legs (edema)
  • confusion
  • fatigue
Heart failure is a serious, emergency condition, generally caused by hypertension, heart attack, and coronary heart disease. Heart failure may begin suddenly (acute heart failure) or it may come on gradually (chronic heart failure).

In acute heart failure there may be shortness of breath, severe weakness, the need to sit up to breathe, pain in the chest, chest congestion with much bubbly sputum or coughing. This can happen in a person who was previously well or in someone with diagnosed heart disease.  
It’s important to treat acute heart failure seriously. Call for medical help or see your doctor immediately for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. There are medications to treat acute heart failure.

Continue Learning about Heart Disease

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.