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Acute heart failure

Acute heart failure is also known as acute decompensated heart failure.

It's basically where chronic heart failure goes over the edge into full-on-not-working. The patient gets fluid overload, because the heart can't pump enough, and so it all gets backed up.

Common causes are an acute infection such as pneumonia, an MI, arrhythmias, anaemia or hyperthyroidism. It can also just happen normally in patients with heart failure, especially poorly controlled hypertensives.

This manifests in shortness of breath as pulmonary oedema rapidly builds up, and the immediate treatment is diuretics, to try and dump all the excess fluid. You also give them oxygen and nitrates, to give the heart more oxygenated blood.