Congestive Heart Failure Infections

Fact Checked

Congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart does not beat adequately to circulate blood throughout the body. This in turn causes excess fluids to build up in the tissues. This buildup of fluid may be caused by certain infections that weaken the heart muscle, a heart attack or disease of the heart muscle. This overload of fluid in the body can also lead to infections, especially in the lungs.


Several tests are used to determine the presence of congestive heart failure and possible infection complications that may result from it. One of the most frequently used tests is a simple chest X-ray, which will reveal the presence of fluid in the lungs and around the heart. Other tests include blood chemistry, echocardiogram, heart catherization and nuclear heart scans.


Symptoms of congestive heart failure include shortness of breath and swelling, especially in the feet and legs of the affected individual. A person affected with congestive heart failure infections may also present with fever and extreme fatigue.


The most common infectious complication of congestive heart failure is development of pneumonia in the lungs. The excess buildup of fluid allows microorganisms to multiply and grow, with subsequent development of pneumonia. The organisms, which cause pneumonia, cause the fluid in the lungs to thicken and breathing to become difficult. The decreased blood flow restricts the ability of the body to fight off the developing infection.


Excess buildup of fluid in the feet and legs of a person suffering from congestive heart failure and the inability of the body to supply adequate oxygen to these cells can lead to infection of the skin and tissues of the legs and feet. This infection is called cellulitis and can be life-threatening if left untreated. A person with cellulitis caused by congestive heart failure infections will present with redness, warmth and swelling to the tissues of the affected areas. The skin may burst and excess fluid seep out. These open weeping areas are then more prone to developing subsequent infections.


Treatment for congestive heart failure infections is aimed at removing excess fluids from the body and eradicating the causative infections. Diuretics are used to help the body eliminate fluid buildup, and broad-spectrum antibiotics are used to help eliminate the underlying infections. During treatment, the patient must be monitored closely for electrolyte imbalances due to the use of the diuretics, as well as toxic buildup of antibiotics in the cells due to the body’s inability to properly circulate and remove the toxins associated with antibiotic breakdown by the body.