Philadelphia Treatment Guide
CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE
What It Is
Congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to other organs. It may develop after a heart attack, from narrowed arteries due to coronary artery disease, or high blood pressure. It can also be a direct result from an infection, a birth defect, or primary disease of the heart.
Shortness of breath; dry, hacking cough; wheezing; coughing up pink, foamy mucus; sudden weight gain; swollen ankles, legs, and abdomen; bloating; increased need to urinate at night; loss of appetite; nausea, fatigue, dizziness, or weakness; irregular or rapid heart beat; decreased alertness or concentration
ACE Inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, digoxin, beta blockers, diuretics, and aldosterone antagonists are used regularly in conjunction with lifestyle changes. If this isn’t enough and the condition worsens, surgery may be necessary.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillator: A cardioverter defibrillator — a device that monitors heart rhythm—is implanted beneath the skin and wired to the heart. If the heartbeat becomes irregular, it shocks the heart to get it back into rhythm.
Biventricular pacemaker: This pacemaker is also implanted beneath the skin and wired to the heart. When heart rate drops below a rate set by your doctor, the device sends small electrical impulses to the heart muscle that make the lower chambers of the heart contract. This causes the right and left ventricle to pump together, resulting in increased heart function.
Implantable ventricular assist device (VAD): A mechanical pump that helps a weakened heart pump blood throughout the body, it’s used as a “bridge to transplant” for patients with end-stage CHF. More recently, it’s being used as an alternative to heart transplant.
Heart Transplant: When all other treatments have failed, a heart transplant is necessary to keep the patient alive. A healthy heart from a human donor is transplanted into the body and the damaged heart is removed.
Living With Congestive Heart Failure
Living with congestive heart failure is a difficult struggle for many. Try to keep your blood pressure low, limit fluid and sodium intake, maintain a healthy weight, and stop smoking. Discontinue alcohol use, exercise regularly, and eat a balanced diet.