When the heart fails to pump blood efficiently

Understanding Heart Failure

What is it?

Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can no longer provide enough blood to keep up with your body's needs.

Heart failure can be caused by several different problems, including coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, heart attack or congenital heart problems.

In many cases, heart failure can be treated effectively with medications. When medications do not help and symptoms become severe, an implantable defibrillator or cardiac resynchronization therapy may be considered.

What are the symptoms?

There are many symptoms of heart failure, and they may be mild or severe.

One of the primary ways your cardiologist will assess your heart is by a cardiac ultrasound to measure your ejection fraction. This is the percentage of the blood in your heart's left ventricle that is ejected with each heart beat. A normal ejection fraction is between 55 and 65%. Many people with heart failure have an ejection fraction below 40%.

Most common symptoms of heart failure are:

  • Shortness of breath, particularly when exercising
  • Inability to exercise or perform physical tasks
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles or feet
  • Sudden weight gain from retaining fluid
  • Frequent urination late at night

How is it treated?

  • Medication. Most cases of heart failure are treated with medication. There are many drugs available for the treatment of heart failure, and your cardiologist may prescribe one or more of them.
  • Implantable defibrillator. Heart failure patients have a higher risk of sudden cardiac death, so an implantable defibrillator may be needed. This device is implanted surgically. If your heart should ever stop suddenly, the defibrillator will shock your heart back to its regular rhythm.
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). A relatively new treatment, cardiac resynchronization therapy can help your heart to pump more efficiently. A CRT device uses electrical signals to help the heart beat in a more coordinated fashion.

What is Lee Health's approach?

Technology and expertise at Lee Health

Lee Health offers the most advanced and effective heart rhythm treatments to our patients.

In 2016, Lee Health performed approximately 2600 electrophysiology procedures.

We have two fully equipped electrophysiology labs and one dedicated implant room. They are staffed by nurses and technicians who work exclusively on heart rhythm disorders.

Did you know we have a Rapid Diuresis Clinic?

Some patients with an established diagnosis of (congestive) heart failure develop excess fluid in their body which cannot easily be managed with oral medications. The Rapid Diuresis Clinic provides a location where selected patients can receive intravenous medication over a period of time up to 12 hours without an inpatient hospitalization. In some cases, this can be very helpful to reduce symptoms and reduce the likelihood of a need for hospitalization.

Referral to this clinic can be accomplished by speaking with your physician.

View this topic in our Health Encylopedia.

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