Diagnosing Congestive Heart Failure
When making a congestive heart failure diagnosis, a doctor generally asks about your medical history and symptoms, performs a physical exam, and conducts tests (such as an echocardiogram or exercise stress test). If your doctor suspects heart failure, he or she may refer you to a cardiologist.
Your doctor will determine if you have congestive heart failure by gathering a detailed medical history, performing a physical examination, and recommending several tests. The purpose of this approach is to:
- Identify the presence of diseases and conditions that can cause heart failure
- Rule out other causes of your symptoms
- Determine the amount of damage to and the pumping capability of your heart.
Your doctor will ask if you or others in your family have or have had any of the diseases and conditions that can cause heart failure. You will also be asked about your specific symptoms. This includes:
- The types of symptoms
- When they occur
- How long you have had them
- Their severity.
Your answers to these questions will help your doctor determine the limits on your ability to perform daily activities.
As part of your physical examination, your doctor will:
- Listen to your heart for abnormal sounds
- Listen to your lungs for the buildup of fluid
- Look for swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, and abdomen
- Look for swelling in the veins of the neck.