High output heart failure

QJM. 2009 Apr;102(4):235-41. doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hcn147. Epub 2008 Nov 5.


The symptoms and signs of heart failure can occur in the setting of an increased cardiac output and has been termed 'high output heart failure'. An elevated cardiac output with clinical heart failure is associated with several diseases including chronic anaemia, systemic arterio-venous fistulae, sepsis, hypercapnia and hyperthyroidism. The underlying primary physiological problem is of reduced systemic vascular resistance either due to arterio-venous shunting or peripheral vasodilatation. Both scenarios can lead to a fall in systemic arterial blood pressure and neurohormonal activation leading to overt clinical heart failure. In contrast to low output heart failure, clinical trial data in this area are lacking. The use of conventional therapies for heart failure, such as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers and certain beta-blockers with vasodilatory properties, is likely to further reduce systemic vascular resistance resulting in deterioration. The condition, although uncommon, is often associated with a potentially correctable aetiology. In the absence of a remediable cause, therapeutic options are very limited but include dietary restriction of salt and water combined with judicious use of diuretics. Vasodilators and beta-adrenoceptor positive inotropes are not recommended.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Cardiac Output, High / complications*
  • Cardiac Output, High / drug therapy
  • Cardiac Output, High / physiopathology
  • Coronary Circulation / physiology
  • Diuretics / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy
  • Heart Failure / etiology*
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance / physiology


  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Diuretics