Heart failure is a condition in which the ability of the heart to propel blood through the circulation has been compromised. Heart failure can be acquired in a number of ways, including loss of muscle mass through myocardial infarction, elevated workload, or myopathic processes, including infection. In each of these cases, the end result is the same: decreased stroke volume for any given filling pressure—decreased contractility.
The term congestive heart failure actually describes a symptom complex that encompasses all conditions of venous congestion of cardiovascular origin regardless of whether the myocardium is depressed or not. Congestive heart failure can occur with valve dysfunctions and even the high cardiac output states of beriberi and overtransfusion. The current discussion, however, is limited to only those conditions in which the contractility of the heart is depressed.
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