Medical Management for Heart Failure

Medical therapy is generally the first treatment approach for heart failure patients. Medications such as diuretics, beta blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) may be used to treat heart failure. Many patients may control heart failure symptoms well with medications for months, even years. However, if their symptoms worsen even with appropriate medications, other therapies may be considered.

Surgical Procedures to Correct Heart Failure

Some underlying causes of heart failure can be treated surgically. The following procedures may be used to correct specific problems, stop further damage to the heart and improve the heart’s function.

  • CardioMEMS™ Heart Failure System — CardioMEMS™ allows patients to measure pulmonary artery pressure (an early indication of worsening heart failure) at home via a small implanted device in the patient’s pulmonary artery. These results can then be sent securely to the patient’s provider. By monitoring these vital signs, physicians can more effectively manage patients with heart failure and reduce hospital readmissions.
  • Coronary bypass surgery
  • Mitral valve repair
  • Ventricular remodeling (surgical ventricular restoration): An open-heart surgery performed to remove areas of dead heart tissue and reshape the left ventricle to help it work better. The procedure is usually done with coronary bypass surgery, with the aim of preventing the progression of heart failure.
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) — Implanting a specialized biventricular pacemaker to re-coordinate the action of the right and left ventricles in patients with heart failure.
  • Mechanical circulatory support devices, which can be used as a bridge-to-transplant or as destination therapy. These include:
    • Total artificial heart (TAH) — A surgically implantable pump replaces the patient's damaged heart and performs the heart's function
    • Ventricular assist device (VAD) — A mechanical support device is implanted to support the existing heart's function
  • Heart transplant

Treatment for Edema or Congestive Heart Failure

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). Traditional treatment for heart failure patients with edema has involved the use of diuretics (drugs that increase the excretion of water from the body). Over time, however, diuretics become ineffective, and continued use can cause more swelling.

Heart failure patients with edema (or other patients with other conditions that involve swelling in the legs and abdomen) may benefit from Aquapheresis™, a filtration system that removes fluid in patients for whom diuretics have stopped working. The system removes extra salt and water from the blood and body – up to 12 liters of excess fluid in 24 hours or up to 30 liters in 48 hours. Following the procedure, fluid loss is sustained for at least eight weeks.

The system connects to the patient’s bloodstream through catheters. Blood is run through a special filter and then returned through another vein. In addition to improving breathing and other symptoms, the process allows many patients to resume their cardiac exercise and rehabilitation programs as well as normal activities.

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