Evaluation and Management of Right-Sided Heart Failure: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

Circulation. 2018 May 15;137(20):e578-e622. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000560. Epub 2018 Apr 12.


Background and purpose: The diverse causes of right-sided heart failure (RHF) include, among others, primary cardiomyopathies with right ventricular (RV) involvement, RV ischemia and infarction, volume loading caused by cardiac lesions associated with congenital heart disease and valvular pathologies, and pressure loading resulting from pulmonic stenosis or pulmonary hypertension from a variety of causes, including left-sided heart disease. Progressive RV dysfunction in these disease states is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. The purpose of this scientific statement is to provide guidance on the assessment and management of RHF.

Methods: The writing group used systematic literature reviews, published translational and clinical studies, clinical practice guidelines, and expert opinion/statements to summarize existing evidence and to identify areas of inadequacy requiring future research. The panel reviewed the most relevant adult medical literature excluding routine laboratory tests using MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Web of Science through September 2017. The document is organized and classified according to the American Heart Association to provide specific suggestions, considerations, or reference to contemporary clinical practice recommendations.

Results: Chronic RHF is associated with decreased exercise tolerance, poor functional capacity, decreased cardiac output and progressive end-organ damage (caused by a combination of end-organ venous congestion and underperfusion), and cachexia resulting from poor absorption of nutrients, as well as a systemic proinflammatory state. It is the principal cause of death in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension. Similarly, acute RHF is associated with hemodynamic instability and is the primary cause of death in patients presenting with massive pulmonary embolism, RV myocardial infarction, and postcardiotomy shock associated with cardiac surgery. Functional assessment of the right side of the heart can be hindered by its complex geometry. Multiple hemodynamic and biochemical markers are associated with worsening RHF and can serve to guide clinical assessment and therapeutic decision making. Pharmacological and mechanical interventions targeting isolated acute and chronic RHF have not been well investigated. Specific therapies promoting stabilization and recovery of RV function are lacking.

Conclusions: RHF is a complex syndrome including diverse causes, pathways, and pathological processes. In this scientific statement, we review the causes and epidemiology of RV dysfunction and the pathophysiology of acute and chronic RHF and provide guidance for the management of the associated conditions leading to and caused by RHF.

Keywords: AHA Scientific Statements; causality; disease management; heart failure; ventricular dysfunction, right.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Diuretics / therapeutic use
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / pathology
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology*
  • Heart Failure / therapy
  • Heart Transplantation
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / diagnosis
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / etiology
  • Kidney / injuries
  • Kidney / physiopathology
  • Ventricular Function, Right / physiology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Diuretics