Heart Failure

Integrated Care for Heart Failure Patients

Heart failure affects nearly five million adults in the U.S. each year. This condition occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the needs of your body’s organs, and can lead to symptoms such as irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, dizziness and swelling of the legs and ankles.

At University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, we treat all types of heart conditions, including heart failure, to help patients achieve positive and lasting results. Our heart failure specialists work with you to slow the progression of this disease, relieve symptoms, reduce the need for hospitalization and help you live a longer, healthier life.

We also offer access to clinical trials and lifesaving treatments such as heart transplant that are only available at a few healthcare institutions in the nation. When you come to UH for heart failure treatment, we provide unique medications and/or the implantation of mechanical circulatory and ventricular assist devices (VAD), which may eliminate the need for a heart transplant.

Causes of Heart Failure

Lifestyle habits over many years and medical and heart conditions that have either damaged or added an extra workload to the heart can all contribute to heart failure. Some of the most common causes of heart failure include:

Innovative Diagnostic Testing for Heart Failure

After conducting a physical exam and understanding your medical history, our heart failure specialists will perform diagnostic testing to confirm a heart failure diagnosis. We may use one or a combination of the following innovative diagnostic tests:

  • B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) test: BNP tests are blood tests that reveal the level of the BNP hormone which is often released during heart failure.
  • Cardiac catheterization: Cardiac catheterization involves advancing a small tube called a catheter from a blood vessel in the groin through the aorta into the heart.
  • Cardiovascular optical coherence tomography (OCT): A non-invasive imaging test, OCT is a catheter-based test that uses light to produce high-resolution images of the heart.
  • Computed tomography (CT) coronary angiography: This diagnostic test produces images of your heart and can detect issues with the arteries that supply blood to your heart.
  • Echocardiogram (Echo): Echos use sound waves to create a moving picture image of your heart and provide information about its size, shape and function.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): ECGs record electrical activity of the heart, detect heart muscle damage and show irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias.
  • Myocardial viability testing: With positron emission tomography (PET) capability, this test evaluates the blood flow to the heart.
  • Nuclear cardiology: Using a contrast agent to better visualize the structure of your heart, this test can indicate functional issues.

Wide Range of Heart Failure Treatment Options

Heart failure treatment depends on the cause. Once we determine the cause of your heart failure, our multidisciplinary team, which consists of cardiologists and surgeons who specialize in heart failure, will design a treatment plan that is ideal for your age, overall health, medical history, disease progression and preferences. We are pleased to offer a wide range of heart failure treatment options including:

  • Angioplasty and stenting: Angioplasty and stent placement is a minimally invasive method of accessing blocked or clogged arteries and opening them to restore blood flow to the heart.
  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG): If you have coronary artery disease, CABG can bypass the blocked portion of your coronary artery with a healthy blood vessel from another part of your body.
  • Heart transplants: The process of replacing a damaged heart with a healthy one from a donor is known as a heart transplant. Heart transplants are only recommended in the most severe cases of heart failure.
  • Heart valve repair or replacement: If one or more of your heart valves have to work harder to pump blood, they can become narrow and stiff or even leak. A valve repair or replacement may be necessary if this is the case.
  • Implantable cardiac defibrillators: Also, called ICD, this device is similar to a pacemaker, but larger. The difference is an ICD can send a low-energy shock to reset an abnormal heartbeat or send a higher-energy shock if an arrhythmia restricts the heart from pumping.
  • Medications: There are a variety of medications we may prescribe to treat heart failure. These medications may reduce the workload of the heart, increase heart strength, increase the pumping action of the heart and keep the heart’s rhythm regular.
  • Pacemakers: Pacemakers may be a viable treatment if your heart rate is irregular or too slow. Another specialized pacemaker, called a biventricular pacemaker, is used when ventricles are not in sync which can worsen heart failure.
  • Pulmonary artery pressure monitoring: CardioMEMS™ is a very small, wireless sensor, which is implanted into the pulmonary artery to monitor pressures and transmit data directly to the UH heart failure team to help with care management and reduce readmission rates.
  • Risk factor control: To prevent the worsening of heart failure, we may encourage you to control heart attack risk factors by losing weight, sticking to a low-sodium diet, controlling your blood sugar and quitting smoking.
  • Transmyocardial laser revascularization (TMR): TMR is a new treatment that is performed to improve blood flow to areas of the heart that were not treated with angioplasty or surgery. It involves using special carbon dioxide to create small channels in the heart muscle.

Learn More about UH’s Heart Failure Expertise

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with heart failure, but has been given limited treatment options, contact our heart failure team at University Hospitals. Our team has the experience and expertise to treat even the most complex heart failure conditions.