Congestive Heart Failure
Each year approximately 400,000 Americans are diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF). Although it is a serious form of heart disease, CHF is one that can be monitored and treated to improve heart function and reduce symptoms. CHF can be managed medically, surgically, and especially through lifestyle changes to help give patients an opportunity to improve their quality of life.
What is Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure occurs when weak heart function is accompanied by a build up of fluids in the body. This occurs because blood flow slows, thus decreasing the amount of blood pumped from the heart. Blood returning to the heart backs up in the veins and forces fluid into surrounding tissues, most often the feet and legs. The feet, legs and ankles begin to swell under the increased fluid volume, a condition known as edema. This edema can spread to other parts of the body, including vital organs. If the fluid accumulation affects the lungs, it can be a life-threatening situation.
Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure
Along with edema of the lower extremities, the most common symptom of CHF is shortness of breath and often, fatigue, weakness, and the inability to perform physical activities. Weight gain from the excess fluid is another common symptom. Some people begin to cough up pinkish, blood-tinged sputum.
What are the risk factors for Congestive Heart Failure?
Major risk factors include:
- History of heart attack
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Valve disease
- Congenital heart defects
People who have other types of heart and vessel diseases often develop CHF
Treatment Options for CHF
Treatment varies with the severity of CHF, ranging from medications for mild cases to heart transplantation for severe cases. Because of the shortage of donor hearts, heart assist devices are often used to keep patients alive while they await transplant. Assist devices, which take over the majority of the heart's pumping function, allow the heart to rest, heal, and grow stronger. As a result, patients often become healthier and stronger before they undergo transplant surgery.
Surgical Associates of Texas, P.A. surgeons have begun performing a new surgical technique at the Texas Heart Institute on certain patients with enlarged, failing hearts. It is hoped that this operation may be an alternative to heart transplantation for some patients. The procedure, called left ventricular reduction or Batista procedure, involves removing a slice of muscle from the enlarged heart and sewing the heart back together. By reducing its size, the heart can pump more efficiently and vigorously.
Surgeons can use heart assist devices as bridges to the left ventricular reduction procedure. By implanting the assist device and permitting the heart to rest, the damaged heart cells may return to normal. The assist device can then be removed, and a left ventricular reduction can be performed. Thus far, the results have been promising.
Surgical Associates of Texas, P.A., the cardiovascular surgical team at the Texas Heart Institute, have more experience than any other cardiovascular surgical group in the world, having performed approximately 100,000 open heart surgeries of all types and degrees of complexity and over 800 heart transplants. Many of our patients have had successful operations and recovery when previously led to believe that no further treatment options were possible.
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Last revised April 2005