What is Ejection Fraction?
Ejection Fraction (EF) measures how efficiently your heart is pumping blood each time it contracts. During each heartbeat cycle, the heart contracts and relaxes. When your heart contracts, it ejects blood from the two pumping chambers (ventricles). When your heart relaxes, the ventricles refill with blood. No matter how forceful the contraction, it doesn’t empty all of the blood out of a ventricle. The term "ejection fraction" refers to the percentage of blood that’s pumped out of a filled ventricle with each heartbeat.
Left ventricular Ejection Fraction (LVEF) is the measurement of how much blood is being pumped out of the left ventricle of the heart (the main pumping chamber) with each contraction.
Right ventricular Ejection Fraction (RVEF) is the measurement of how much blood is being pumped out of the right side of the heart to the lungs for oxygen.
In most cases, the term “ejection fraction” refers to left ventricular ejection fraction.
Ejection Fraction Measurement
50-70% - Normal
36-49% - Below Normal
What do the Numbers Mean?
Ejection Fraction is usually expressed as a percentage. A normal heart pumps a little more than half the heart’s blood volume with each beat.
A normal LVEF ranges from 50-70%. A LVEF of 65, for example, means that 65% of the total amount of blood in the left ventricle is pumped out with each heartbeat.
The LVEF may be lower when the heart muscle has become damaged due to a heart attack, heart muscle disease or other causes.
An Ejection Fraction of 35 to 40% may confirm a diagnosis of systolic heart failure. Someone with diastolic failure can have a normal Ejection Fraction.
An Ejection Fraction of less than 35% increases the risk of life-threatening irregular heartbeats that can cause sudden cardiac arrest (loss of heart function) and sudden cardiac death. An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) may be recommended for these patients.
Your Ejection Fraction can go up and down, based on your heart condition and the therapies that have been prescribed.
How is Ejection Fraction Measured?
Ejection Fraction can be measured in your doctor’s office during tests such as:
- Ultrasound of the heart (echocardiography) – used most often
- Cardiac catheterization
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the heart
- Nuclear medicine scan (multiple gated acquisition or MUGA) of the heart; also called a nuclear stress test
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan of the heart
What is Heart Failure?
Heart failure means:
- The muscles of the heart are weaker than normal or the lower chambers of the heart are not able to relax and fill with blood as they normally do
- Less blood is pumped out of the heart to organs and tissues in the body
- Pressure in the heart increases
Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped working.
When the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs, it tries to adapt. The chambers of the heart stretch to hold more blood to pump through the body with each heartbeat. Hormones are released into the bloodstream to increase the heart’s pumping power and increase blood flow into the heart chambers. These changes provide temporary relief, but over time, the heart muscle walls continue to weaken and/or stiffen.
There are Two Types of Heart Failure:
Systolic left ventricular dysfunction (or systolic heart failure) occurs when the left ventricle heart muscle doesn’t contract with enough force, so less oxygen-rich blood is pumped throughout the body.
Heart failure with preserved left ventricular function (diastolic heart failure) occurs when the heart contracts normally, but the ventricles do not relax properly or are stiff and less blood enters the heart during normal filling. In this case, the Ejection Fraction may be normal.
Talk with your doctor about a simple, painless test that can measure yours! If you don’t know your Ejection Fraction number, learn it today.