What is congestive heart failure (CHF)?

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which the heart cannot pump blood as well as a typical heart. Doctors can usually diagnose CHF in children at birth or soon after birth. Over time, CHF can weaken the heart muscle. It can also make harder for the heart to pump blood.

What causes CHF?

CHF occurs when a child is born with a congenital heart defect (heart defect present at birth).

What are symptoms of CHF?

How infants and children are affected by CHF depends on what is causing it. Symptoms can be different in every person with the condition.

Common symptoms in infants include:

  • Breathing faster than normal
  • Sweating while feeding
  • Getting tired more easily

In older children, you could see the above symptoms along with:

  • Swelling of the feet, ankles and legs
  • Shortness of breath, significant fatigue
  • Failure to thrive (poor growth)
  • Weight gain, caused by a build-up of fluid in the body
  • Trouble playing and exercising normally and have difficulty keeping up with their peers during activities

Rev. 9/2018. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.