What's the difference between a Heart Attack and a Congestive Heart Failure?
I worked in the Intensive care unit for over ten years and seen both conditions come through the unit. A heart attack occurs because there is a blockage in one of your arteries. Congestive Heart Failure occurs because your heart is not strong enough to push the fluids (blood) through your bloodstream and fluids begin to back up in the pulmonary system which causes your lungs to fill with fluid. Congestive heart failure can cause severe pain in the chest and most patients have a difficult time breathing and need to be rushed to the hospital. In any case but conditions are very serious and can be fatal if not addressed immediately. Of course, there are different levels and stages for both Heart Attack patients and CHF. (Congestive Heart Failure). If found early enough they are both treatable - Cheri
My father had heart failure and it was an ongoing condition - the heart isn't strong enough to pump the blood around, and fluid builds up. I suppose if it was untreated and got to a critical point, it would become an emergency.
A heart attack, on the other hand, is a sudden failure of the heart caused by a blockage.
Heart attack will usually destroy a part of the heart by the insult/injury depending on where it is or how severe - or occlude a coronary artery, etc. again rendering the heart muscle damaged in some cases. Congestive heart failure on the other hand is as I understand it fluid overload that taxes the heart, but can result in ankle swelling, severe shortness of breath, and can lead to heart attack if not treated. Both are probably equally life-threatening but a heart attack can sometimes be aborted if caught in time by treating - if not with medicines then with angioplasty or stenting quickly if the culprit vessel is found. Heart failure on the other hand requires longer treatment and usually involves heart meds and diuretics to unload all that extra fluid that is overtaxing the heart. That's what I think anyhow.
In addition to the current answers, failure can be divided into right and left failure. Right failure is more chronic and common because the right lower chamber of the heart is much smaller and less muscular than the left lower chamber. The left lower chamber, aka the left ventricle, pumps blood very forcefully to the entire body except for the lungs and the blood returns to the right atrium or upper chamber.The right lower chamber, aka the right ventricle, pumps blood only to the lungs and back to the left atrium or upper chamber. It's important to remember that failure in this case does not mean the the pumping stops. It simply means that the weakened chamber cannot handle the amount of blood being sent to it by the opposite chamber. Think of trying to bail out a sinking boat. The bailing may be inadequate but still must continue. The larger left ventricle can easily overpower the weakened right ventricle and so the blood backs up in the extremities causing swelling of the feet and hands. This can present as a chronic finding over long periods of time without serious problems. This is aka peripheral edema. This is usually treated with varying levels of diuretics to induce the kidneys to excrete more fluid. The more serious event occurs when the weakened left ventricle is overpowered by the normal output from the right ventricle usually following an extensive MI. In this case the fluid backs up into the lungs causing acute shortness of breath and the presence of the fluid causes the exchange of oxygen to be decreased. This is more difficult to treat and often leads to increased stress on the heart at a time of vulnerability.Treatment with diuretics is joined with morphine which relaxes other vessels and reduces the cardiac workload. The morphine also helps with the patients anxiety and sense of doom which can only help at such a time. CCU is the best place for the left failure, pulmonary edema patient who may also need procedures in the Cardiac Catheter lab to treat a current or expanding MI.
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