Heart Failure Treatments

Heart failure is a chronic disease needing lifelong management. However, with treatment, symptoms of heart failure can improve and the heart sometimes becomes stronger. Doctors sometimes can correct heart failure by treating the underlying cause. For example, repairing a heart valve or controlling a fast heart rhythm may reverse heart failure. But for most people, the treatment of heart failure involves a balance of the right medications, and in some cases, devices that help the heart beat and contract properly.

You'll probably need to take two or more medications to treat heart failure. Your doctor may prescribe other heart medications as well — such as nitrates for chest pain, a statin to lower cholesterol or blood-thinning medications to help prevent blood clots — along with heart failure meations.

Surgery and Medical Devices

In some cases, doctors recommend surgery to treat the underlying problem that led to heart failure. Some treatments being studied and used in certain people include:

   Coronary bypass surgery. If severely blocked arteries are contributing to your heart failure, your doctor may recommend coronary artery bypass surgery. In this procedure, blood vessels from your leg, arm or chest bypass a blocked artery in your heart to allow blood to flow through your heart more freely.

   Heart valve repair or replacement. If a faulty heart valve causes your heart failure, your doctor may recommend repairing or replacing the valve.  Certain types of heart valve repair can now be done without open heart surgery, using either minimally invasive surgery or cardiac catheterization techniques. Valve replacement is done when valve repair isn't possible. In valve replacement surgery, the damaged valve is replaced by an artificial (prosthetic) valve.  Click here to learn more about Minimally Invasive or Robotic-assist Valve Repair with Dr. Katz.

   Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs). An ICD is a device similar to a pacemaker. It's implanted under the skin in your chest with wires leading through your veins and into your heart. The ICD monitors the heart rhythm and if the heart starts beating at a dangerous rhythm the ICD tries to pace your heart or shock it back into normal rhythm. 

   Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), or biventricular pacing. A biventricular pacemaker sends timed electrical impulses to both of the heart's lower chambers (the left and right ventricles) so that they pump in a more efficient manner. Often a biventricular pacemaker is combined with an ICD for people with heart failure.

   Heart pumps (left ventricular assist devices, or LVADs).These mechanical devices are implanted into the abdomen or chest and attached to a weakened heart to help it pump. LVADs can be used as a "Bridge to Transplant" or as an alternative to transplantation, "Destination Therapy." Implanted heart pumps can significantly extend and improve the lives of some people with severe heart failure. Click here to learn more about LVADs.

   Heart transplant. Some people have such severe heart failure that surgery or medications don't help. They may need to have their diseased heart replaced with a healthy donor heart. Heart transplants can dramatically improve the survival and quality of life of some people with severe heart failure. However, candidates for transplantation often have to wait a long time before a suitable donor heart is found.