Heart failure is when the heart does not pump enough blood around the body. Biventricular heart failure is when chambers on both sides of the heart, known as ventricles, are affected.

Doctors classify heart failure based on the area of the heart that is not working as usual. This includes the left ventricle, right ventricle, or both ventricles. The type of heart failure will determine the type of treatment doctors recommend.

This article looks at what biventricular heart failure is, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and life expectancy.

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Biventricular heart failure affects both the left and right sides of the heart. Specifically, it affects the left and right ventricles, which are chambers in the lower half of the heart. Their job is to forcefully pump blood to the rest of the body.

Biventricular heart failure often begins with left ventricular heart failure. As the left side is unable to pump enough blood, higher fluid pressure transfers back through the lungs, damaging the right side of the heart, too.

Once damage occurs on both sides, a person experiences biventricular heart failure.

Biventricular heart failure may cause the same symptoms as those of both left sided and right sided heart failure. These symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • cough
  • fatigue
  • heart palpitations
  • swollen abdomen
  • swollen scrotum, in males
  • fluid build up in the legs, around organs, or the abdomen

In severe cases, heart failure also causes low blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat, and reduced blood flow.

Usually, biventricular heart failure is the result of left sided heart failure that progresses and affects both sides. Common causes of left sided heart failure include:

However, some other heart or lung-related health conditions may lead to right sided heart failure, alone or in combination with left sided heart failure.

For example, right sided heart failure can occur due to conditions that increase pressure or fluid volume, or that decrease blood filling of the ventricle. These conditions include:

Doctors diagnose biventricular heart failure by first asking about a person’s symptoms and medical history. They may then recommend blood tests, such as:

They may also order urine analysis and tests to assess the heart’s function, such as:

At present, there is no cure for heart failure. However, there are steps a person can take to manage their condition. These include medications, procedures, or lifestyle changes.

Doctors may need to determine the underlying cause of heart failure to recommend the most suitable treatment. The medications that commonly help treat heart failure include:

Some people may also need medications for arrhythmia or blood thinning drugs. In severe cases, people may also need medical procedures, such as:

Lifestyle changes may also help improve outcomes and keep the heart healthier for longer. This includes:

  • limiting salt consumption
  • avoiding alcohol, if you drink
  • quitting smoking or nicotine use, if applicable
  • reaching a moderate weight
  • getting regular exercise
  • getting enough sleep
  • managing stress

Heart failure is a serious condition. Because biventricular heart failure is often the result of advanced heart failure that originally began on the left side, it does affect life expectancy.

The exact outlook will depend on the severity of the symptoms and whether a person responds to treatment.

According to data from 2018, people with biventricular heart failure have a 2-year survival rate of 23%. In comparison, those with only left sided heart failure have a 2-year survival rate of 71%.

Biventricular heart failure affects both the left and right sides of the heart. It is often the result of left sided heart failure that progresses to affect the right side over time.

Symptoms of biventricular heart failure may include shortness of breath, tiredness, or fluid build up in the legs and abdomen. Some common causes include CAD and chronic high blood pressure. However, any condition or situation that raises pressure on the heart can result in heart failure.

Conditions that decrease how much the ventricles fill with blood, such as congenital heart defects, could also result in biventricular heart failure.

Treatments can help the heart pump blood more effectively, reduce pressure on the heart, and manage the symptoms. Treatments may include medications, lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, medical procedures, such as fitting a pacemaker.