The size of a clenched fist, the heart is a muscle that pumps blood to all parts of the body providing it with the much-required oxygen and nutrients essential for functioning. Its not uncommon to see kids playing with their toy stethoscope and monitoring the heartbeat of their papa or mama full of smiles. Though unable to hear even the minutest of sound these kids pretend-play and enjoy themselves. A healthy heart beats around 60 to 80 times every minute to enable pumping of blood throughout the body. There are four valves in the heart that ensure that the blood flows in one direction only through the heart. Starting to flow from the right atrium blood enters the right ventricle. This oxygen-rich blood enters the left side of the heart flowing from the left upper chamber to the lower chamber through the mitral valve. From the left ventricle, blood is pumped into various arteries that carry blood throughout the body.
Ejection Fraction (EF)
Ejection fraction refers to how well the left ventricle pumps blood every time your heart beats, that is how much blood is pumped out of the left ventricle each time it contracts. Usually expressed as a percentage an EF of 50% means that 50% of the total quantity of blood is pushed out of the left ventricle with each heartbeat. Normally, EF must be between 50 and 70% but even when EF ranges are normal it is still possible to suffer from heart failure. Sometimes, the ventricles hold lesser than the normal ranges of blood and it might seem that the ventricles pump out a normal percentage of the blood that enters it. But this is never enough to meet the body’s needs.
Heart failure with ejection fraction occurs when the left ventricle is not pumping blood as it does normally. A heart failure indicates that the heart is not working as well as it should. An ejection fraction between 40 and 54% indicates that the pumping ability of the heart is slightly below normal and there is a slight decrease in the quantity of blood available to other parts of the body. An EF between 35 and 39% indicates that the pumping ability is moderately below normal whereas an EF lesser than 35% means that the pumping ability is severely below normal. An EF below 35% puts you at a greater risk of life-threatening irregular heartbeats that can cause sudden cardiac arrest/death.
On the contrary, an EF greater than 75% in adults is indicative of a heart condition such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Read more about this condition from the website www.firsteatright.com.
An echocardiogram shows that a majority of patients with heart failure have normal ventricular ejection fraction. While previously called as diastolic heart failure it’s now called as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. EF can be either of the below two:
Preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF): This is also known as diastolic heart failure. While the heart muscles contract normally the ventricles do not relax as they should be during any other day.
Reserved ejection fraction (HFrEF): This is also called as systolic heart failure. Here, the heart muscles don’t contract effectively and hence, less quantity of blood is pumped to all other organs of the body.
The physician suggests for an echo, CAT scan, cardiac catheterization or a nuclear stress test to measure ejection fraction.