Congestive heart failure has emerged as an important public health problem in the United States and is pres ently the number one Diagnostic Related Group for inpatients over the age of 65. Patients admitted to an intensive care or coronary care unit because of de compensated heart failure are frequently older and frequently have multiple serious medical problems. In addition to standard intensive care practices, it is often important to characterize systolic and diastolic proper ties qualitatively with echocardiography. Hemodynamic monitoring is essential for patients with hypotension, oliguria, or questionable left ventricular filling pressures. A combination of loop diuretics, intravenous vaso dilators, and inotropic agents will often be necessary to correct severe underlying hemodynamic abnormalities, and an understanding of basic left ventricular systolic and diastolic function is essential to the optimal use of these potent agents. Manipulation of loading conditions and contractile state are important considerations, and pharmacological interventions should be targeted to ward specific abnormalities in individual patients. Once patients are stabilized, switching to orally active inotro pic and vasodilator agents can usually be accomplished over a 24-hour period, allowing for a total stay of 48 to 72 hours in the intensive care unit. Congestive heart failure (CHF) is rapidly becoming a public health problem of major proportions [1- 5]. As the American population continues to age, we can expect greater numbers of patients to be admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) and coro nary care units (CCUs) with progressive decompen sation of previously stable CHF. Our current ap proaches to the diagnosis and management of acute heart failure are summarized; however, the care of such patients must always be highly individualized.
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