Difference Between CHF and Kidney Failure

Heart failure and kidney failure are two distinct medical conditions that affect the body's organs and can lead to serious health complications if left untreated. Although there are some similarities between these two conditions, there are also significant differences that need to be understood to help patients receive appropriate medical care.

In this essay, we will explore the differences between heart failure (CHF) and kidney failure, including their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

What is CHF?

Congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's demands. This can lead to a backup of blood in the lungs, causing fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues. CHF can be caused by a variety of factors, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart valve disease, and cardiomyopathy. Common symptoms of CHF include shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen ankles, and difficulty sleeping.

CHF is characterized by:

  • Decrease in the amount of blood that the left ventricle pushes to the aorta for one minute;

  • Development of pulmonary hypertension;

  • Development of tissue hypoperfusion (decrease in blood volume in tissues).

Types of CHF

Congestive heart failure can be of the following types:

  • Left-sided CHF

  • Systolic heart failure−The left ventricle fails to contract normally and the heart can’t pump properly.

  • Diastolic heart failure−The muscles in the left ventricle become stiff, so the heart can’t fill with blood properly between beats.

  • Right-sided CHF−Due to right ventricle’s difficulty pumping the blood to the lungs, it backs up in the blood vessels. This causes fluid retention in the abdomen, lower extremities, etc.

The left- and right-sided CHF can occur simultaneously.

In case of CHF, pulmonary edema and cardiac asthma are observed. In CHF, the pressure in the pulmonary venous system increases. Pulmonary capillary pressure also increases and when it exceeds a certain limit occurs a leakage of fluids and proteins in the interstitial lung space – cardiac asthma. Later, fluids and proteins enter the alveoli and develop a pulmonary edema.

Symptoms of CHF

The symptoms of CHF include:

  • Nighttime shortness of breath;

  • Superficial and rapid breathing;

  • Dry irritating cough and pink sputum;

  • Sweating;

  • Pale and cold skin;

  • Palpitations;

  • Cyanosis of the lips;

  • Anxiety.

Diagnosis of CHF

The diagnosis of CHF is based on the medical history and clinical symptoms of the patient. Physical examination includes lung and heart auscultation. The instrumental examinations include:

  • Electrocardiography;

  • Radiography of the lungs;

  • Echocardiography;

  • Blood-gas analysis.

Treatment for CHF aims to improve the myocardial contractility and thus to increase the minute heart rate. The main medications used are nitrates, ACE inhibitors, diuretics, cardiac glycosides, etc.

What is Kidney Failure?

Kidney failure, also known as renal failure, occurs when the kidneys are unable to filter waste and excess fluids from the blood. This can lead to a buildup of toxins in the body, which can cause a range of health problems.

Kidney failure can be caused by a variety of factors, including diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, and certain medications. Common symptoms of kidney failure include fatigue, swelling in the legs and ankles, decreased urine output, and difficulty concentrating.

Causes of Kidney Failure

Kidney failure can be caused by:

  • Heart diseases;

  • Liver failure;

  • Dehydration;

  • Severe burns;

  • Allergic reaction;

  • Severe infection;

  • Kidney stones;

  • Extended prostate;

  • Blood clots in the urinary tract;

  • Damage to the nerves that control the bladder;

  • Heavy metals, narcotics, alcohol;

  • Glomerulonephritis;

  • Haemolytic-uremic syndrome;

  • Lupus;

  • Scleroderma;

  • Chemotherapy drugs, etc.

Types of Kidney Failure

There are five types of kidney failure:

  • Acute prerenal kidney failure − caused by inadequate blood flow to the kidneys. This type of kidney failure can potentially be cured after determining and eliminating the cause of the decreased blood flow.

  • Acute renal kidney failure − can be caused by direct kidney injury, toxic overload or ischemia.

  • Chronic prerenal kidney failure − can be caused by inadequate blood flow for an extended period of time. The kidneys begin to contract and lose their ability to function.

  • Chronic renal kidney failure − can be caused by a long-term kidney damage due to a kidney disease.

  • Chronic postrenal kidney failure &minus can be caused by a long-term blockade of the urinary tract, resulting in pressure and kidney damage.

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Possible symptoms include:

  • Reduced urine output;

  • Swelling of the legs;

  • Unexplained suffocation;

  • Excessive fatigue;

  • Permanent nausea;

  • Confusion;

  • Pain or pressure in the chests;

  • Seizures

Kidney Failure: Tests and Diagnosis

The tests that can be used to diagnose kidney failure are:

  • Imaging tests;

  • Measurements of the urine volume;

  • Blood tests;

  • Urine tests;

  • Kidney tissue tests.

  • The type of treatment required varies depending on the cause of kidney failure. Treatment may include hemodialysis and renal transplantation.

Differences: CHF and Kidney Failure

In this section, let's understand how CHF is different from Kidney Failure:

  • Causes of CHF and Kidney Failure: The causes of CHF and kidney failure can vary, but both conditions can be caused by similar risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. CHF is most commonly caused by damage to the heart muscle, which can be caused by a heart attack, high blood pressure, or other medical conditions. Kidney failure, on the other hand, can be caused by a variety of factors, including damage to the kidneys themselves, damage to the blood vessels that supply the kidneys, or damage to the nerves that control the kidneys.

  • Symptoms of CHF and Kidney Failure: The symptoms of CHF and kidney failure can be similar, but there are also some differences. Both conditions can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and swelling in the legs and ankles. However, CHF can also cause difficulty breathing, especially when lying down, and coughing up pink or frothy sputum. Kidney failure can cause decreased urine output, nausea, vomiting, and itching.

  • Diagnosis of CHF and Kidney Failure: Diagnosis of CHF and kidney failure can be similar and may include blood tests, urine tests, imaging studies, and other diagnostic tests. For CHF, a doctor may perform an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to create images of the heart. A doctor may also perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) to measure the heart's electrical activity. For kidney failure, a doctor may perform blood and urine tests to evaluate kidney function. Imaging studies such as ultrasound or CT scans may also be used to evaluate the kidneys.

  • Treatment of CHF and Kidney Failure: The treatment of CHF and kidney failure can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause. For CHF, treatment may include medications such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and beta-blockers. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, exercise, and a low-salt diet may also be recommended. For kidney failure, treatment may include medications to control blood pressure and protect the kidneys from further damage. Dialysis or kidney transplant may also be necessary in severe cases of kidney failure.

The following table highlights the major differences between CHF and Kidney Failure:



Kidney Failure


Тhe types of CHF are left-sided CHF (systolic and diastolic) and right-sided CHF. Both types can occur simultaneously.

There are five types of kidney failure – acute prerenal kidney failure, chronic prerenal kidney failure, acute renal kidney failure, chronic renal kidney failure, and chronic postrenal kidney failure.


The symptoms of CHF include nighttime shortness of breath, superficial and rapid breathing, dry irritating cough and pink sputum, sweating, pale and cold skin, palpitations, cyanosis of the lips, anxiety, etc.

The symptoms of kidney failure include reduced urine output, swelling of legs, unexplained suffocation, excessive fatigue, permanent nausea, confusion, pain or pressure in the chests, seizures.


CHF is diagnosed by physical (lung and heart auscultation) and instrumental examinations (electrocardiography, radiography of the lungs, echocardiography, blood-gas analysis).

The tests that can be used to diagnose kidney failure are imaging tests, measurements of the urine volume, blood tests, urine tests, kidney tissue tests.


The main medications used to treat CHF are nitrates, ACE inhibitors, diuretics, cardiac glycosides, etc.

Treatment of kidney failure may include hemodialysis and renal transplantation.


CHF is a disease of the cardiovascular system, in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the metabolic needs of the tissues, due to a disorder of its systolic and/or diastolic functions. In contrast, Kidney Failure is a condition where the kidneys have lost the ability to filter waste products from the blood.

Updated on: 12-May-2023


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