COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Update: Testing and Information | Vaccine Updates | Visitor Guidelines

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
  • 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

CardioMEMS — Monitoring Your Heart at Home

CardioMEMS allows patients to measure pulmonary artery pressure (an early indication of worsening heart failure) at home. In a minimally invasive procedure, your cardiologist inserts a sensor in your pulmonary artery. Most patients go home the same day with a portable monitor and "smart pillow." Each morning, you will lay on the pillow to transmit your pressure readings to the advanced heart failure nurses at Froedtert Hospital.

If the pressures are out of your defined range, we typically adjust medications over the phone and watch your readings over the next several days. By catching pressure changes earlier, we hopefully can adjust your treatment before there is additional damage that could require a hospital stay. Most private insurance and Medicare plans cover the procedure and equipment, but we recommend you check with your insurance provider when considering the device.

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.