Congestive Heart Failure
Frequently Asked Questions
What is congestive heart failure?
Congestive heart failure is a chronic progressive disease that affects the heart’s pumping power. More often referred to as “heart failure”, congestive heart failure refers to the stage where fluid builds up around the heart and prevents it from pumping properly.
Congestive heart failure/ heart failure develops when the ventricles, the two bottom chambers of your heart that pump blood to your organs and tissues, cannot pump sufficient volumes of blood to keep the rest of your body adequately supplied with oxygen and nutrients. This insufficient pumping increases pressure in the heart, so the chambers of the heart may try to compensate by expanding to hold more blood or stiffening to boost pumping power. However, the muscles eventually weaken and become unable to function properly. As a result, the kidneys may start building up fluid in your lungs, abdomen, liver, or lower body, causing the body to become congested and leading to congestive heart failure.
What causes congestive heart failure?
There are many conditions that can damage the heart muscles and leave the body susceptible to congestive heart failure, including:
- Coronary Artery Disease – a disease of the arteries where an accumulation of plaque on the inner walls can severely limit the blood flow to your heart.
- Heart attack – a sudden blockage in a coronary artery that stops the flow of blood to the heart muscle. A heart attack damages the heart muscle and leaves behind scar tissue that prevents that area from functioning properly.
- Hypertension – when your blood pressure is higher than normal and your blood vessels become restricted by cholesterol and fat.
- Valve conditions – improperly functioning heart valves can force your ventricles to work harder to pump blood.
- Cardiomyopathy – damage to the heart caused by infections or alcohol or drug abuse.
- Other conditions such as thyroid disease, kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, or heart defects.
What are the symptoms?
In the early stages of congestive heart failure, you may not notice any changes to your health. However, there are several signs to watch out for, such as:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pains
- Swelling in your ankles, feet, and legs
- Congested lungs
- Weight gain
- Shortness of breath
- Increased need to urinate during the night
How is congestive heart failure diagnosed?
The fastest and most reliable way to find out if you are suffering from congestive heart failure is to schedule a cardiology consultation with the expert team at Cardiac Solutions. One of our board-certified cardiologists will perform a physical exam and run a series of tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Some of the recommended tests may include:
- An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) records your heart’s rhythm
- An echocardiogram uses sound waves to record the structure and motion of your heart
- An MRI takes pictures of your heart
- Stress tests can show how your heart performs under stress
- Blood tests evaluate kidney and liver functions, check cholesterol levels, and identify any infections and abnormalities
- Cardiac catheterization shows blockages in the coronary arteries
How is it treated?
At Cardiac Solutions, we provide a wide variety of treatment options to combat congestive heart failure. We will create a personalized treatment plan for you that may include:
- ACE inhibitors open up narrowed blood vessels to improve blood flow
- Beta-blockers reduce blood pressure and slows rapid heart rhythms
- Diuretics reduce your body’s fluid content
If medications are not effective on their own, they may perform an angioplasty to open up blocked arteries or heart valve repairs may be required. A device to help manage or monitor your heart may need to be implanted.
When medication is not improving the heart function your cardiologist may talk to you about a number of implantable devices to help improve the pumping function of your heart and give you a better quality of life and reduce your symptoms of congested heart failure.
- Biventricular pacemakers (BiV): Biventricular pacemaker is a special pacemaker, which is used to synchronize the contractions of the left ventricle with the right ventricle, to improve the squeezing ability of the heart. This is implanted in patients with severe and moderately severe symptoms of heart failure.
- Automatic implanted cardioverter defibrillator (AICD): An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is a small device that’s placed in the chest or abdomen. The device is to help treat irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias. If the patient goes into a life threatening irregular heart rhythm the device will provide an electrical shock to help bring the heart back into a normal rhythm.
- CardioMEMS: If you have heart failure, changes in the pressure of blood through your pulmonary artery can indicate worsening heart failure—even before you notice symptoms such as shortness of breath or weight gain. The CardioMEMS™ HF System features a small pressure-sensing device that is implanted directly into your pulmonary artery. It sends information wirelessly to your doctor. Your doctor can use the information to adjust your medications and treatment plan, if needed.
With over 30 years of experience, the professional team at Cardiac Solutions has the knowledge and skills to maximize your heart health by providing effective treatment plans for congestive heart failure. To find out more information or to schedule a full cardiology consultation, please call 623-876-8816!