Chronic heart failure

December 2010

FocusChronic heart failure

Echocardiography in heart failure

A guide for general practice

Volume 39, No.12, December 2010 Pages 904-909

David Prior

Jennifer Coller


Echocardiography is an essential investigation in patients with suspected heart failure. An echocardiogram provides assessment of cardiac chamber size and structure, ventricular function, valvular function and key haemodynamic parameters.


This article explains the principles of echocardiography and how general practitioners can use echocardiograms to manage patients with heart failure.


Echocardiography can provide diagnostic information about the cause of heart failure, and may indicate what further investigations are required and what therapy is indicated. It may also provide important prognostic information. It can be used for noninvasive quantitative monitoring. Identification of impaired systolic function is important as there is evidence based therapy which can improve prognosis in this condition.

Heart failure is the inability of the heart to provide sufficient cardiac output for the body’s needs without an increase in filling pressures. Heart failure can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms and signs can be nonspecific – it is important to confirm a clinical diagnosis by demonstrating cardiac dysfunction.

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