Heart Failure

Many in Oklahoma mistakenly believe heart failure means the heart has stopped or is about to stop. Heart failure (or congestive heart failure) simply means the heart is not pumping blood through the body as well as it should. As the heart’s pumping action weakens, blood backs up into the blood vessels around the lungs and causes seepage into the lungs. The fluid causes congestion and makes it hard to breathe. Many people with heart failure also have swollen legs and feet. That is why heart failure is sometimes called congestive heart failure.

According to the American Heart Association, heart failure is not necessarily a sudden or dramatic change:

“Heart failure develops following injury to the heart such as the damage caused by a heart attack, long-term high blood pressure, or an abnormality of one of the heart valves. The weakened heart must work harder to keep up with the demands of the body, which is why people with heart failure often complain of feeling tired.”

In fact, many Oklahoma heart failure patients may not even realize the implications their symptoms indicate.

About 4,000 donor hearts are available in the world each year – thousands short of the number required. Heart assist devices offer end-stage heart patients the opportunity to live more complete, normal, and active lives during Bridge-to-Transplant or Destination Therapy.

End-Stage Heart Failure

End-stage heart patients are those whose hearts are irreversibly damaged and can no longer be managed by medical therapy alone. At this point, surgical options may be available with a heart transplant or heart assist devices. Unfortunately, the need for hearts for transplantation far outweighs their availability. The American Heart Association states that thousands more heart patients each year would benefit from transplantation, but do not receive it due to low availability of hearts. For patients with more severe heart failure, like congestive heart failure, implantable LVAD (left ventricular assist devices) are rapidly gaining wide acceptance as viable alternatives to conventional drug and surgical therapies. As the U.S. Department of Health confirms, most instances of heart failure involve the left ventricle:

“Heart failure develops over time as the pumping action of the heart grows weaker. It can affect the left side, the right side, or both sides of the heart. Most cases involve the left side where the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body.”

The LVAD maintains and in many instances, improves a transplant-eligible patient’s health until a donor heart becomes available (called Bridge-to-Transplant).

Some causes of congestive heart failure (CHF,) or weakening of the heart muscle, may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • heart attack (also called myocardial infarction, or MI)
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • valvular heart disease
  • congenital (present at birth) heart conditions
  • cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats)
  • pulmonary hypertension (elevated blood pressure within the lungs' blood vessels)
  • alcoholism or drug abuse
  • chronic lung diseases, such as emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • cardiomyopathy (an enlargement of the heart muscle)
  • anemia (low red blood cell count)

There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend heart transplantation.



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