How Heart Failure is Diagnosed

Dr. Sean Virani, MD, MSc., MPH, FRCPC, FCCS, Cardiologist, talks about how heart failure is diagnosed accurately.

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Dr. Sean Virani, MD, MSc., MPH, FRCPC, FCCS, Cardiologist, talks about how heart failure is diagnosed accurately.
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Featuring Dr. Sean Virani, MD, MSc, MPH, FRCPC, FCCS, Cardiologist

Duration: 1 minute, 38 seconds

First and foremost heart failure is a clinical diagnosis, so we look to patients to see if they have the cardinal signs and symptoms of heart failure. If they do, then the clinician will typically want to do some type of confirmatory testing.

And there are many different options for that. Perhaps the easiest and simplest is to do a blood test called natriuretic peptide. Natriuretic peptides, or NPs, are elevated in patients with heart failure. It’s a very effective and easy tool to be able to make the diagnosis at the bedside. It does not require patients to be admitted to hospital, and can be carried out in the lab.

If we wanted to be more sophisticated in terms of making the diagnosis, most patients will go on to have an echocardiogram. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart, which allows us to measure the pumping and the relaxing function of the heart. And it’s perhaps the gold standard for the diagnosis of heart failure.

Once we make the diagnosis of heart failure—either with natriuretic peptides or by echocardiography, we do need to go forward, however, and figure out why the patient has developed heart failure. Those two tools that I mentioned are useful for making the diagnosis, but they don’t tell us anything about why the patient has developed heart failure, and so in that case additional testing will be necessary.

If you have any more questions about how heart failure is diagnosed, I would encourage you to follow up with your general practitioner or cardiologist to learn more.

Presenter: Dr. Sean Virani, Cardiologist, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Cardiologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.