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Return to Heart Failure Overview

More on Heart Failure

Cardiology

Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart is not strong enough to effectively pump blood to the rest of the body. As the heart struggles to work harder, it may become enlarged. Fluid may build up in other parts of the body, resulting in swelling of the feet and ankles and causing fluid to collect in the lungs. Patients with advanced heart failure report shortness of breath and feel tired when they exert themselves.

The team at NewYork-Presbyterian features specialists with exceptional experience in treating patients with all stages of heart failure.

Treatment Options

Medication

Heart failure may be treated with drugs such as:

  • ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors, which help blood vessels dilate and help the body eliminate excess water, lowering the amount of work the heart has to do
  • beta blockers, sometimes used with ACE inhibitors, may slow heart rate and relax thickened heart muscle
  • digitalis, which increases the force of each heart beat and slows a heart rate that is too fast
  • diuretics, which help the body eliminate excess water and reduce blood pressure
  • investigational therapies, such as stem cell and gene therapies

When heart failure continues to progress despite these treatments, tissues throughout the body fail to receive the nutrients and oxygen that they require. Over time, this can cause organ failure.

VADs

Patients with end-stage heart failure may benefit from mechanical cardiac assist devices, the most common of which are ventricular assist devices (VADs).

The left ventricle is the chamber responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the aorta for transport to the rest of the body. Ventricular assist devices (VADs) help heart failure patients by taking on the workload of the left ventricle, helping the heart to pump oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. As a result, all tissues and organs receive the blood supply they need to do their jobs, and the patient feels better.

These surgically implanted mechanical pumps can help:

  • patients who are awaiting a heart transplant ("bridge to transplantation")
  • patients who are not eligible for a transplant ("destination therapy").

NewYork-Presbyterian is a leader in the development and implantation of VADs for patients with heart failure. The Hospital's Mechanical Circulatory Support Program has been helping patients benefit from VADs since 1990 and performs one to two VAD implantations each week.

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