Advanced Heart Failure & Congestive Heart Failure

Heart “failure” means the heart is not pumping effectively enough to meet the body’s needs for oxygen-rich blood. Often, a person with heart failure may have a buildup of fluid in the tissues, called edema. Heart failure edema is called congestive heart failure (CHF). It can occur gradually or suddenly, and there are more than 200 possible causes. Some mild forms of heart failure may be reversible, and people may live for many years after diagnosis. Our treatment is aimed at helping people with heart failure live a full life.

Heart Failure Causes

Heart failure develops when the heart becomes weakened after an injury, such as a heart attack, or because of chronic conditions such as: 

Patients with heart failure may find that their condition worsens over time, despite appropriate treatment. That can be an indication of advanced heart failure.

Comprehensive, Personalized Care

The Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplantation Program focuses on personalized care of advanced heart failure patients. We make sure our patients and their families understand all of their treatment options, which may include heart transplantation.

Not every patient referred to us for possible heart transplant will need one. We assess each patient to make sure we have an accurate diagnosis and clear understanding of their heart function. We evaluate and adjust any current therapies to make sure they have the most appropriate treatment for the stage of their heart failure. For patients who have continued to decline despite appropriate medical or surgical therapy, two options exist – implanting a ventricular assist device (VAD) either as a bridge to transplant or as a destination therapy, and heart transplantation.

Excellent Follow-up Care Makes a Critical Difference

Close follow-up care is vital for anyone with heart failure. Sudden or gradual changes in a patient’s symptoms or their overall health can signal the need for adjustments to their therapy. We pay close attention to where our patients are in their disease and their treatment. Heart failure is a chronic disease requiring lifelong care, and our goal is to help our patients feel as good as they can for as long as they can.

A Progression of Therapy

The cause of heart failure helps determine the best treatment approach. For example, if the heart failure is caused by a valve disorder, then surgery is usually performed. If it is caused by a disease, such as anemia, then the disease is treated. Several other therapies may be tried before a VAD or heart transplant is considered, including: medical management; surgical procedures to correct underlying problems; and use of a biventricular pacemaker (cardiac resynchronization therapy) or implanted defibrillator device.

Expert Care for Even the Sickest Patients

Advanced heart failure patients often have other serious medical conditions that require expert care. As an academic medical center, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin have a vast array of experts and specialists who collaborate to deliver the best care possible for even the sickest patients. In fact, we often see patients who have been refused at other centers because the number of medical issues they face and the severity of their disease.