Glossary of Terms
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
A condition that is secondary to poor heart function, resulting in a number of physiologic sequelae that are secondary to the "congestion" of blood not being adequately pumped by the heart. Congestive heart failure can be secondary to many causes. Despite the cause, the physiologic consequences are very similar. As noted in the definition of "CIRCULATORY SYSTEM", the heart and lungs are responsible for circulating the blood to and from the body's organs. When a condition causes "CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE", it is secondary to the heart's inability to adequately pump the blood. As a consequence of the blood not being pumped adequately, the blood returning to the heart causes increased pressures in the lungs and the veins of the body. A non-clinical analogy would be a traffic jam on a highway. Because of these increased pressures in the lungs and veins, some of the fluid in the blood can "leak" into the surrounding tissues or lung, making it difficult to breath, or causing an accumulation of fluid in the legs, which is known as edema. Common causes of congestive heart failure are valvular heart disease, such as aortic insufficiency, mitral insufficiency or a significant heart attack.