Heart Failure

Find a Heart Failure Specialist

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 5.1 million people in the United States have heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. Fortunately, with early diagnosis and treatment, people with heart failure are now able to sustain healthier and more active lifestyles. 

Our team of advanced heart failure and transplant subspecialized cardiologists provide services for patients in all stages of heart failure. Houston Methodist provides the entire continuum of care, from disease management to implantable assisted devices, and heart transplant, in the event it becomes necessary. 

Types of Heart Failure 
Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure (CHF), is a condition associated with symptoms and signs of excess fluid. There are two main types of heart failure classification: 
  • Systolic Heart Failure is when the heart's lower chambers (ventricles) become too weak to contract and pump enough blood to meet the body's needs, resulting in shortness of breath and other heart failure symptoms. 
  • Diastolic Heart Failure is when the heart muscle becomes too stiff to relax and expand to fill with enough blood. This causes the heart to pump less blood, resulting in the backup of fluid in the lungs and other heart failure symptoms. 

There are four stages to heart failure: 

Stage A (pre-heart failure) 
The patient is at a high risk for developing heart failure in the future.
The patient may have pre-existing conditions including:
Stage B (asymptomatic heart failure) 
The patient has been diagnosed with heart failure but exhibits no symptoms of the disease.
The patient may have had earlier warning signs including:
  • Prior heart attack
  • Left ventricular systolic dysfunction (difficulty of the left ventricle to empty or eject the blood from its chamber)
  • Vascular disease diagnosis
Stage C (symptomatic heart failure) 
The patient has been diagnosed with heart failure and is experiencing common symptoms including:
Shortness of breath
Reduced tolerance for physical activity
Stage D (end-stage heart failure) 
The patient continues to show progressive signs and symptoms of heart failure even after standard treatment. 

Symptoms of Heart Failure 
Patients with Stage A or B heart failure experience no symptoms; Stage C heart failure may include some of the following common symptoms:
  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical exertion
  • Persistent cough or wheezing, especially if it produces white or pink mucus
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles or legs (edema)
  • Swelling in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Confusion, disorientation or memory loss
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
If you experience more than one of these symptoms, even if you have not been diagnosed with any heart problems, contact your doctor as soon as possible and ask for an evaluation of your heart. 

Diagnosis and Treatment of Heart Failure 
Our highly specialized physicians at Houston Methodist diagnose heart failure using sophisticated imaging techniques, such as echocardiography, nuclear stress tests, heart scanning (calcium scoring), CT coronary angiogram and cardiac MRI. We also use the latest therapies to control chest-pain syndromes in women and, when needed, are prepared to perform complex surgeries and catheter-based procedures. 

Additionally, our experts watch over patients using the CardioMEMS HF System, the only heart failure monitoring system approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The system features a paper clip-sized sensor implanted in the pulmonary artery to measure pulmonary artery pressure. Increased pressure along with weight and blood pressure changes can indicate worsening heart failure.

The system allows patients to remotely transmit daily sensor readings to their physician or nurse by lying on a special pillow that contains an antenna. Information from the patient’s sensor is sent to the doctor.

The device helps patients with systolic and diastolic heart failure, which cause fluid buildup.

This implant is designed for lifetime use. There is no need to change batteries. The device improves patients’ quality of life and reduces hospital admissions.