Systolic dysfunction is a form of heart failure that occurs when the heart can no longer pump an adequate amount of blood to the body's organs and tissues. Though the condition has a number of symptoms, the most common symptom and cause is myocardial infarction — heart attack. For patients whose systolic dysfunction develops over time, doctors can make a diagnosis using one of many procedures or tests. After diagnosis, a patient and his or her doctor will decide on a treatment method and lifestyle changes that best fit with the condition's severity and progression.
After myocardial infarction, doctors will test for systolic dysfunction during a patient's hospital stay and follow up physicals. Where systolic dysfunction develops over time, the symptoms can be so mild that a patient, usually elderly, might not recognize that he or she has a heart condition. These symptoms include fatigue, confusion and disorientation. These symptoms are present with many types of conditions, so systolic dysfunction usually is not diagnosed until it has progressed into an advanced stage.
Many options exist to diagnose systolic dysfunction. Electrocardiography (ECG) is the most common and reliable method. A doctor is able to measure heart function and gauge whether the heart is ejecting an adequate amount of blood with every pump. The doctor most likely will be able to determine the cause of the dysfunction at the same time. In some cases, though, a biopsy of heart tissue is necessary to check for bacterial infection.
Only after a doctor has made a diagnosis, determined the cause and measured the progression of the systolic dysfunction can the patient choose an appropriate treatment option. Sometimes surgery is involved if the cause is a congenital heart defect. Multiple courses of antibiotics are necessary for those whose dysfunction is caused by an infection. Even if treatment stops the progression of systolic dysfunction, heart damage is permanent in most cases. Lifestyle changes are necessary to ensure a longer, higher-quality life.
For those whose systolic dysfunction is caused by a heart attack, a change is diet is essential for better health. Reducing salt intake and eating a low-fat, fiber-rich diet will help a patient lose weight and lower blood pressure. Quitting smoking and severely reducing alcohol intake is an absolute necessity. A doctor might suggest this course even if the dysfunction has a different cause, because lifestyle changes allow certain heart medications to act much more effectively.