Advanced Options Available to Treat Heart Failure

Viviana Navas, MD - Cleveland Clinic Florida Cardiologist

February 2, 2017

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Nearly 5 million Americans are diagnosed with heart failure each year. It is the leading cause of hospitalization in people over age 65.

Q: What causes heart failure?

A: It can have many causes, including coronary artery disease, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, certain viruses, excessive alcohol or drug use, and past treatment with chemotherapy. In some patients, the cause is not known.

Q: What are the early symptoms of heart failure?

A: Shortness of breath, swelling in the legs, fatigue, weight gain and gastrointestinal problems can all be signs of heart failure.

Q: How is heart failure diagnosed?

A: After a thorough physical, the primary test to diagnose heart failure is an echocardiogram. Other tests can include blood work, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, stress test and angiogram.

Q. How is heart failure treated?

A: Some types of heart failure can be fixed with a procedure, such as bypassing a blocked artery. For others, medications such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and aldosterone antagonists can improve the heart’s ability to pump blood.

Q: What if the heart failure is more severe than that?

A: Cleveland Clinic Florida began a program last year to transplant donor hearts and mechanical devices. A team of experts meets to discuss the best option for our very ill patients. If a live heart is indicated, the patient is put on the donor list to find a match. If a mechanical device to assist the heart is the best course of action, surgery to implant it can typically occur within a few days. 

Q: What is the recovery like after transplantation of a heart or mechanical device?

A: Most patients are able to resume a fairly normal life within about a month.


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