Michelle Badash, MS
The doctor may suspect heart failure based on your medical history and symptoms, such as shortness of breath or edema. A complete physical exam will be done to look for other characteristic signs of heart failure, such as:
Your doctor may recommend tests to confirm the diagnosis and assess the degree of damage. Some tests can also eliminate other health conditions with symptoms similar to heart failure. Examples of these tests include:
Imaging tests take pictures of the heart, blood vessels, and structures. Imaging tests for heart failure include:
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will assess the stage and class of your heart failure.
Staging is based on heart damage and symptoms. The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Foundation stages heart failure as:
The New York Heart Association (NYHA) classifies heart failure based on symptoms and how they affect your abilities. NYHA classes are:
Brain natriuretic peptide. Brain Natriuretic Peptide website. Available at:
http://www.brainnatriureticpeptide.net. Accessed October 8, 2013.
Heart failure. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 7, 2013. Accessed October 8, 2013.
How is heart failure diagnosed? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hf/diagnosis.html. Updated January 9, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2013.
Medical tests and findings. Heart Failure website. Available at: http://www.heartfailure.org/heart-failure/medical-tests. Accessed October 8, 2013.
Symptoms & diagnosis of heart failure. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartFailure/Symptoms-Diagnosis-of-Heart-Failure_UCM_002047_Article.jsp. Updated September 20, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2014 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
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