Treatments & Procedures
If you have been diagnosed with symptomatic heart failure, your doctor will begin working with you on a course of treatment. Depending on the severity of your condition, one or more of the following treatments may be recommended:
- Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, tracking your fluid intake, limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption, eating a heart-healthy diet, being physically active and managing stress
- Medications may be prescribed, including the following:
- Anticoagulants, also called blood thinners, decrease your blood's ability to clot (coagulate) blood vessels
- Antiplatelet agents prevent your blood's platelets from sticking together and forming clots
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors lower levels of angiotensin II, a protein that causes blood vessels to constrict and blood pressure to increase
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers prevent blood pressure from rising
- Beta blockers decrease your heart rate and lower blood pressure by dilating (expanding) the blood vessels
- Calcium channel blockers lower blood pressure by preventing calcium from entering the cells of the heart and blood vessels
- Diuretics, also known as water pills, rid the body of excess water and relieve fluid buildup in the lungs and lower limbs
- Vasodilators relax the blood vessels and increase the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart while reducing its workload
- Digitalis preparations increase the force of each heartbeat to return the heart to a normal rhythm
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs, to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels
- Coronary bypass surgery is recommended if your heart failure is the result of an artery around the heart becoming blocked.
- Heart valve repair or replacement is required if heart failure occurs due to a damaged heart valve.
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) monitors for an abnormal heart rate and transmits an electrical shock to jolt the heart back to its normal rhythm.
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), or biventricular pacing, uses a pacemaker to send signals to both sides of the heart, making sure they pump in rhythm.
- Angioplasty is a non-surgical, catheter-based procedure that opens blocked arteries and restores normal blood flow to the heart.
- Pacemaker helps the heart maintain an adequate pace to keep up with the body's need for oxygen-rich blood
Sometimes heart failure progresses to a point where treatment is not effective and the patient progresses to Stage D , which is advanced heart failure. Patients at this stage typically need either a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) or a heart transplant.
A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is an implanted mechanical device that helps a heart pump that cannot effectively work on its own. Unlike an artificial heart, the LVAD is not a replacement; rather, it helps the heart do its job more effectively. LVADs can also help a weakened heart pump more blood while a potential heart transplant patient waits for a donor organ.
In a heart transplant, a failing heart is replaced with a healthy heart from a generous donor who has recently died. It is generally reserved for patients who have tried medications or other surgeries, but their heart failure has not improved.
After Discharge from Heart Failure Treatment
Once you return home from the hospital after treatment for heart failure, it is important to follow the instructions of your doctor and medical team closely.
- Support is available. Medication can affect your mood; if you need help finding a therapist or support group, talk to your doctor or care team for a referral.
- Take medication as directed.
- Track your weight. Sudden weight fluctuation can mean you are retaining too much water and sodium. This can be a warning sign that your heart failure is getting worse.
- Diet, activity and other lifestyle factors will help you stay healthy. Follow a low-sodium diet and incorporate exercise into your life.
- Quit smoking.
- Schedule and attend follow-up appointments as directed by your doctor.
- Watch for warning signs such as shortness of breath, sudden weight gain, swelling or pain in the abdomen, dizziness, persistent cough or fatigue. Call your doctor if these warning signs appear.