Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center

Heart Failure FAQ

What is heart failure?

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure (CHF), occurs when the heart can not pump enough blood to supply the body's needs. This happens because either

  • the heart's chambers can not fill up with enough blood, or
  • the heart can not pump the blood with enough force.

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What causes heart failure?

Heart failure can result from conditions that stress, damage or weaken the heart, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, high blood pressure (hypertension) and other conditions.

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What are the symptoms of heart failure?

Some common symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, a cough that will not go away, swelling in the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen, fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, and confusion.

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What tests are used to diagnose heart failure?

If your doctor suspects heart failure, he or she may order one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Stress test
  • Cardiac CT scan
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Cardiac catheterization (Angiogram)
  • Nuclear cardiology

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How is heart failure treated?

If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, your doctor will begin working with you on a course of treatment. Depending on the severity of your condition, he or she may recommend lifestyle changes, medication, bypass surgery, a surgically implanted device such as a pacemaker or angioplasty. If your condition is severe and none of these approaches work, you may need a heart transplant.

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How will I know if I need a heart transplant?

If your doctor has tried all available treatments for heart failure and your condition does not improve, he or she may begin discussing the need for a heart transplant. Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center is a leader in the field of heart transplants, and if you are a candidate, your team will coordinate with them to get you listed for a donor organ.

Learn more about heart transplants at the Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center

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How do I care for myself when I go home from the hospital?

When you are discharged from the hospital, your doctor will give you specific instructions on taking your medication, tracking your weight, the warning signs to watch for, and various other considerations. Be sure to pay close attention to those instructions, and call your doctor's office any time you have questions.

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For more information about heart failure treatment at the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center or to make an appointment, please call us at 713-DEBAKEY (713-332-2539) or complete our online contact us form.