Stages of Heart Failure

The table below outlines a basic plan of care that may or may not apply to you, based on the cause of your heart failure and your special needs. Ask your doctor to explain therapies that are listed if you do not understand why you are or are not receiving them.

Stages of Heart Failure

Stage A

Definition of Stage

People at high risk of developing heart failure (pre-heart failure), including people with:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • History of cardiotoxic drug therapy
  • History of alcohol abuse
  • History of rheumatic fever
  • Family history of cardiomyopathy
Usual Treatments
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Treat high blood pressure.
  • Treat lipid disorders.
  • Discontinue alcohol or illegal drug use.
  • An angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE inhibitor) or an angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) is prescribed if you have coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or other vascular or cardiac conditions.
  • Beta blockers may be prescribed if you have high blood pressure or if you’ve had a previous heart attack.
Usual Treatments for Stage A
Usual Treatments for Stage A

Stage B

Definition of Stage

People diagnosed with systolic left ventricular dysfunction but who have never had symptoms of heart failure (pre-heart failure), including people with:

  • Prior heart attack
  • Valve disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • The diagnosis is usually made when an ejection fraction of less than 40% is found during an echocardiogram test.
Usual Treatments
  • Treatment methods above for Stage A apply
  • All patients should take an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE inhibitors) or angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB)
  • Beta-blockers should be prescribed for patients after a heart attack
  • Surgery options for coronary artery repair and valve repair or replacement (as appropriate) should be discussed
  • If appropriate, surgery options should be discussed for patients who have had a heart attack.
Usual Treatments for Stage B

Stage C

Definition of Stage

Patients with known systolic heart failure and current or prior symptoms. Most common symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced ability to exercise
Reduced ability to exercise

Reduced ability to exercise

Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath

Fatigue

Fatigue

Usual Treatments
  • Treatment methods above for Stage A apply
  • All patients should take an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE inhibitors) and beta-blockers
  • African-American patients may be prescribed a hydralazine/nitrate combination if symptoms persist
  • Diuretics (water pills) and digoxin may be prescribed if symptoms persist
  • An aldosterone inhibitor may be prescribed when symptoms remain severe with other therapies
  • Restrict dietary sodium (salt)
  • Monitor weight
  • Restrict fluids (as appropriate)
  • Drugs that worsen the condition should be discontinued
  • As appropriate, cardiac resynchronization therapy (biventricular pacemaker) may be recommended
  • An implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) may be recommended

Stage D

Definition of Stage

Patients with systolic heart failure and presence of advanced symptoms after receiving optimum medical care.

Usual Treatments

Treatment methods for Stages A, B & C apply
Patient should be evaluated to determine if the following treatments are available options: heart transplant, ventricular assist devices, surgery options, research therapies, continuous infusion of intravenous inotropic drugs and end-of-life (palliative or hospice) care.

Usual Treatments of Stage D
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