Amongst the many important body organs, heart is the most important one. With a complex functional process, it makes sure that the entire body receives blood and stays functional. However, the heart is also a very vulnerable organ and is subject to serious damages, if its health is not maintained. There are various factors that control the health of your heart, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, proper functioning of the heart valves and muscles and many more. One factor that is equally important in determining the health of your heart is Ejection Fraction. A high or low ejection fraction indicates the presence of a heart disease.
What is Ejection Fraction?
Ejection fraction is a measurement through which the amount or percentage of blood that leaves the heart, rather the left ventricle, with every contraction is measured.
This is a very important measurement that helps in determining whether the heart is pumping blood well or not. This helps in tracking the possibility of a heart failure.
The Normal Ejection Fraction
The normal ejection fraction or EF is within 50 and 70. If your ejection fraction is 60, it will mean that 60% of the entire amount of blood in the left ventricle is pumped out with every contraction or in simple terms, with each heartbeat.
However, one thing must be kept in mind that there are chances that despite having a normal ejection fraction ranging between 50-70; one might experience a heart failure. This happens when the muscles of the heart become stiff and thick and as a consequence, the ventricles of the heart hold smaller than usual amount of blood. Though it seems that a normal percentage of blood is being pumped out of the ventricles, the fact is that the entire amount of blood that is being pumped in and out is not enough.
What Does Low Ejection Fraction Mean?
When the heart or the left ventricle doesn't pump out enough blood, it is known as low ejection fraction. A low ejection fraction measurement is calculated as less than 50% of the entire amount of blood in the left ventricle.
Complications Associated with Low Ejection Fraction
Low ejection fraction is an early sign of heart failure. The various heart related complications that are associated with low ejection fraction are –
However, when diagnosed at an early stage, many people with a low ejection fraction can live a healthy life for long. For that, treatments would be offered to cater to the associated signs and symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Low Ejection Fraction
As already mentioned, early diagnosis of low ejection fraction can help a patient to live a healthy life for long. Heart specialists use various tools and technologies to manage the associated symptoms. These symptoms are –
- Heart palpitation
- Loss of appetite
- Mental confusion
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Feeling full or bloated
- Shortness of breath
- Pulmonary congestion
- Swelling of feet
- Irregular heart beat.
These symptoms of low ejection fraction must never be ignored. This is because, if the ejection fraction level falls below 35%, it can lead to sudden cardiac death.
Causes of Low Ejection Fraction
There are different reasons behind the ejection fraction drooping down in level. The most common ones are –
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy as a Cause of Low Ejection Fraction: Cardiomyopathy means a disease of the heart muscles. Dilated cardiomyopathy, thus, indicates a medical condition wherein the weakness of the heart muscles leads to heart diseases. There are various causes that lead to heart muscle weakness, such as a problem with the heart muscles, some systemic illness or a familial or genetic problem.
- Damage caused to the heart due to a previous heart attack
- Chronic and long lasting high blood pressure.
Diagnosis of Low Ejection Fraction
If any sign of low ejection fraction is felt or encountered, it is a must that the diagnosis is made without delay. There are quite a number of tests and techniques that would help in diagnosing or in measuring the ejection fraction.
- ECG or Echocardiogram to Diagnose Low Ejection Fraction: To assess the ejection fraction, sound waves are the most commonly used ones. As the heart pumps blood, the sound waves that are sent through the ECG machine, produces some images. Studying these images, it can easily be determined, whether the right amount of blood is being pumped or not.
- Cardiac CT Scan for Identifying Low Ejection Fraction: Through a CT scan, a cross-sectional image of the heart is taken through a special type of X-ray. This helps in measuring the ejection fraction.
- Cardiac MRI Scan for Diagnosing Low Ejection Fraction: This is yet another technique to take cross-sectional image of the heart. Ejection fraction can be measured through this MRI scan image.
- Nuclear Medicine Scan to Diagnose Low Ejection Fraction: In this process, a radioactive element such as thallium is injected into the blood and then a special camera is used to detect the flow of the blood along with this thallium. Thus, the ejection fraction is measured.
- Diagnosing Low Ejection Fraction with Cardiac Catheterization: In this process, a plastic tube or catheter is inserted into the heart through artery of the arms or legs. Images of the heart are taken during this time and this helps in measuring the ejection fraction.
Treatment of Low Ejection Fraction
- Lifestyle Changes to Treat Low Ejection Fraction: The treatment of low ejection fraction is highly focussed on healthy lifestyle. The lifestyle changes can bring great changes in the outcome and help one to cope with the condition. What need to be followed are –
- Losing weight
- Exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing fluid intake
- Reducing salt intake
Sometimes, the doctor will prescribe you diuretics and beta blockers. These must also be taken regularly.
- ICD or Implantable Defibrillator for Treating Low Ejection Fraction: This is a device that is implanted in the patient's body. This device monitors the heartbeat and if any abnormality is found, it even corrects the problem through electrical charges that it sends to the heart.
- Treating Low Ejection Fraction with Ventricular Assist Device or VAD: This is yet another device that is implanted in the patient's body to treat low ejection fraction. This device helps the ventricles to pump blood.
- Gene Therapy to Treat Low Ejection Fraction: A very advanced treatment method is being used to treat low ejection fraction and that is the gene therapy. Stem cells, which are widely used in many other treatments, are being used to treat low ejection fraction.
The treatment method that would suit your situation best and the symptoms that need to be taken care of can only be determined and diagnosed by a specialist. Hence, if any of the signs of low ejection fraction is identified, seeing a doctor at once is imperative.