What is congestive heart failure?

Kenneth H. Zelnick, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is when a patient has excess fluid in the lungs, says Kenneth Zelnick, MD, of Westside Regional Medical Center. Learn more about congestive heart failure and how it can be identified with an EKG in this video.
Jason S. Sperling, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Congestive heart failure is a diminishment of the heart's efficiency. In this video, Jason Sperling, MD, director of HealthONE Cardiac Surgery, describes how congestive heart failure affects the body, including the lungs and extremities.  
Linda Martinez
Cardiac Rehabilitation
CHF, also called heart failure is a medical condition where the heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as it should, resulting in a lack of adequate blood flow to vital organs.
Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to maintain an adequate circulation of blood in the tissues of the body. This weakening of the heart prevents it from circulating oxygen to the body's tissues. It is called congestive heart failure mainly due to the symptoms of fluid accumulating in the legs (pedal edema) and the lungs.
Joan Haizlip, MSN
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

  Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition where 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

Congestive heart failure is a chronic, long-term condition that occurs when the heart is not strong enough to effectively pump blood to the rest of the body. As the heart struggles to work harder, it may become enlarged. Fluid may build up in other parts of the body, resulting in swelling of the feet and ankles and causing fluid to collect in the lungs. Patients with advanced heart failure report shortness of breath and feel tired when they exert themselves.

More than 500,000 people are diagnosed with congestive heart failure each year in the United States. Some patients benefit from drug therapy. But others may require a heart transplant or other intervention.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
If you have heart failure, your heart cannot pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Your body holds on to water and salt to increase the amount of blood in circulation, leading to a build up of fluids called congestion. Watch this animation to learn more about this condition.

Continue Learning about Heart Disease

Heart Disease

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer of adults in the United States. In fact, one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. Taking care of your heart is essential for a long life. You ...

can treat your ticker right by eating healthy, staying active and managing your stress.

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.