Heart Disease / Failure

Heart disease is a condition in which multiple factors of the heart can be abnormal. The heart can have electrical, structural, or functional abnormalities that manifest in a similar fashion. As in humans, heart disease can be "silent" in that clinical signs may not be present for many months to years. 

The most common clinical signs of heart disease is coughing, fatigue, and weight loss. As this condition is typically chronic in nature, clinical signs usually become more persistent and severe. In order to diagnose heart disease, several tests can be utilized including taking a detailed history, thorough physical examination, ECG, chest and abdominal radiographs, and ultrasound to identify the underlying problem. Secondary tests such as blood evaluation including cardiac biomarkers can be very beneficial. 

The most common abnormality seen with heart disease is a thickening of the internal lining of the heart including heart valves. This leads to the valves being unable to properly close thus allowing blood to go backwards creating an audible murmur.  Hearing a murmur for the first time in an asymptomatic patient does not necessarily warrant full diagnostics and treatment, but a good understanding of heart disease as well as vigilance of clinical signs is needed. 

Heart disease can progress to heart failure which is defined as the heart being unable to effectively pump the blood through the circulatory system. Because of this inability, blood backs up into the body cavities (as with right heart failure) or the lungs (as with left heart failure), or both (with both sided heart failure). Every patient should be treated once diagnosed with failure. This typically includes minimizing stress and oxygen therapy, diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and inodilators. These medications are typically given life long. Heart failure can be well controlled but heart disease is not a curable condition. It is only manageable.