What is Ejection Fraction and What Does it Tell You About Your Heart?

Before seeing your cardiologist, your doctor will schedule you for an echocardiogram of your heart. One piece of information your cardiologist can learn from the results of the echocardiogram is whether your ejection fraction (EF) is low.

Let’s explain what this means:

The heart is a muscle that pumps blood to the rest of your body. The heart has four chambers. The two upper, smaller chambers are called the right and left atria (singular: atrium). Beneath the atria, the two larger chambers are called the right and left ventricles. Blood from your body comes into the right atria and is pumped through the right ventricle and through your lungs to be oxygenated. Blood returning from your lungs enters the left atrium and then the left ventricle. The left ventricle then pumps blood to the rest of your body.

The percentage of blood that leaves the left ventricle during a contraction is called the ejection fraction. The echocardiogram is one way to measure ejection fraction. A normal heart’s ejection fraction is typically between 55 and 70%.

What Does a Low EF Mean?

Your ejection fraction tells the doctor how well your left ventricle is pumping. A low EF indicates the heart muscle is having trouble pumping blood, which can happen for a number of reasons. Your cardiologist wants to know this information in order to give you the best possible treatment. Your cardiologist may be able to change the ejection fraction as there are certain therapies that may help to improve a low EF.

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