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Byline: Miriam Stoppard

What is it?

A sudden deterioration in the pumping action of the heart, usually the left ventricle, which leads to accumulation of fluid in the lungs. If it isn't treated immediately, it is life-threatening.

What are the causes?

The most common cause of acute heart failure is a heart attack that damages a large area of heart muscle. Right-sided acute heart failure is rare and it is usually as a result of a blood clot blocking the pulmonary artery (pulmonary embolism).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually develop rapidly and include severe shortness of breath, wheezing, a cough with pink, frothy sputum, and pale skin and sweating. If heart failure is caused by a pulmonary embolism, you may cough up blood and have a sharp chest pain that is worse when breathing in.

What might be done?

Acute heart failure is a medical emergency, so dial 999.

In the ambulance, you'll be advised to sit in an upright position and oxygen may be given through a face mask.

You may need electrocardiography (ECG) and echocardiography to evaluate the function of the heart and to look for the cause of the heart failure.

A chest X-ray usually confirms the presence of fluid in the lungs.

You may also have coronary angiography to spot a blockage.

What is the treatment?

Intravenous diuretics and medication to boost the heart's efficiency, such as ACE inhibitors or beta-blockers, plus anticoagulants for an embolism.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 20, 2012
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