Doctors trying to diagnose advanced heart failure may start asking patients to bend over and tie their shoes.

The KERA radio story.

That’s because researchers at UT Southwestern have identified a new symptom in heart failure “bendopnea” – shortness of breath bending over.

“We admit, bendopnea is a “funny” word,” says Dr. Jennifer Thibodeau, a cardiologist specializing in advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology at UT Southwestern and coauthor of the new study published in the American College of Cardiology.

“Most medical terms are Latin or Greek based and we have a mixed word,” she says, “But we wanted a term that would be immediately recognizable and descriptive of the new symptom of heart failure.  We have found that doctors who hear the term for the first time know exactly what it means.”

Heart failure affects nearly 5 million adult Americans with over 825,000 new cases diagnosed annually.

Some of the traditional symptoms of heart failure include difficulty breathing when lying down, swelling in the legs and ankles from fluid retention, general fatigue, and shortness of breath.

So why is it important to identify a new symptom?

Dr. Jennifer Thibodeau

UT Southwestern

Dr. Jennifer Thibodeau

“This is not just a new symptom,” Thibodeau says, “But it is an easily identifiable and detectible symptom. So some people who have heart failure even though they have extra fluid don’t show it very well. So cardiologists and primary care physicians can use this as an additional tool to help identify patients who have too much fluid and who have weak hearts.”

For patients who have heart failure who notice they have bendopnea, Dr. Thibodeau says they may want to call their physicians to be further evaluated.