What are the symptoms for right-sided heart failure?

Jennifer H. Haythe, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The symptoms of right-sided heart failure include lower-extremity edema (swelling), abdominal bloating, nausea and fatigue.
Richard J. Shemin, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Right-sided heart failure is when the right ventricular fails to have adequate contraction. Pressure builds up on the venous side of the circulation and cause leg swelling, fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites) and failure of the right side of the heart to deliver blood to the left side of the heart.
Joan Haizlip, MSN
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Symptoms for right sided heart failure are related to fluid buildup in the body:


- swelling in the feet and legs (edema) when standing


- swelling in the back when lying down


- nausea


- loss of appetite



Right-sided heart failure refers to failure predominately of the right ventricle.  This syndrome is characterized by excess fluid accumulation in the body.  This is most notably characterized by swelling under the skin which is known as peripheral edema.  This usually affects more dependent areas of the body such as feet and ankles and the lower extremities in general.  Other areas that fluid may accumulate in include the abdominal cavity.  This may include excess fluid within the central veins of the body including the inferior vena cava, liver and leg veins.  At times, if the pressure in the veins is prolonged and severe, fluid accumulation within the abdominal cavity develops.  This is referred to as ascites.  Patients also may suffer from hepatomegaly.  This refers to enlargement of the liver.  This occurs due to venous congestion of the liver itself which causes swelling of the entire organ.

Symptoms for right-sided heart failure include swelling (edema), especially in the lower portion of the body. Fluids are drawn to and accumulate in the lowest point in the body by the effects of gravity. When standing, swelling occurs in the feet, legs, ankles, and abdomen. When lying down, swelling may occur in the back and abdomen. If fluid accumulates in the stomach or liver, you may feel nauseous or lose your appetite. In extreme instances, the body cannot absorb food well, resulting in a condition called cardiac cachexia.

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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.