What is Heart Failure?
Heart failure occurs when your heart can no longer provide enough blood to keep up with your body's needs. Causes can include coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, heart attack, or congenital heart problems.
In many cases, heart failure can be treated effectively with medications. But when medications don’t help and symptoms become severe, a ventricular assist device (VAD) or heart transplant may be needed.
One of the main ways cardiologists check heart function is by measuring ejection fraction—the percentage of blood in the heart's left ventricle ejected with each heartbeat. A normal ejection fraction is 55% to 65%. Many people with heart failure have an ejection fraction below 40%.
Symptoms of Heart Failure
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, including:
- 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
UR Medicine's Treatments for Heart Failure
The Advanced Heart Failure Program at UR Medicine Cardiac Care gives hope to people with heart failure. We offer advanced treatments, many of which are not available anywhere else in the Rochester region:
- Medication. Most cases of heart failure are treated with medication, and there are many drugs available.
- Implantable defibrillator. Heart failure patients have a higher risk of sudden cardiac death, so an implantable defibrillator might be needed. This device is implanted surgically. If your heart should stop suddenly, the defibrillator will shock your heart back to its normal rhythm.
- Ventricular assist devices (VADs), also known as “artificial heart pumps,” can be used to help your heart pump better. VADs are implanted in your heart and run on battery power. VADs have been shown to help extend and improve the lives of people with heart failure.
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), a relatively new treatment, can help your heart pump more efficiently. A CRT device uses electrical signals to help the heart beat in a more coordinated way.
- Heart transplant is for patients who have severe heart failure. Patients who have heart transplants often experience dramatic improvements in their health. Since donor hearts are in short supply, patients needing a heart transplant might need to wait months or even years for a heart to become available.
Overcoming a Congenital Heart Defect
Rusty Lawrence was born with a congenital heart defect. Doctors didn't expect him to live past the age of three. By age 43, Rusty was dying of congestive heart failure. His only hope was a heart transplant.
What Sets Us Apart?
Our groundbreaking approaches at UR Medicine Cardiac Care are giving heart failure patients greater hope than ever before.
We’re the only center in upstate New York to perform heart transplants, with outcomes comparable to the best heart transplant centers in the nation.
We’re one of the five largest VAD programs in the nation. Launched in 2001, our program has participated in nearly every major clinical study involving ventricular assist devices.
We’re the first team in the nation to implant a VAD by using the Sternal Sparing technique, which uses two small incisions instead of “cracking open” the chest. This means shorter hospitalizations, fewer complications and less pain—all contributing to a quicker return to normal life. Our pioneering work led to FDA approval, allowing other heart centers to follow our lead and benefit patients across the country.
We’re also one of the world's leading research centers on implantable defibrillators and cardiac resynchronization therapy.
Our program is the first in the region to receive Advanced Certification from the Joint Commission for Heart Failure and for Ventricular Assist Devices.
And UR Medicine Cardiac Care is the area's only center to receive a Gold Plus Performance Award from the American Heart Association, meeting the highest standards for treating heart failure, coronary artery disease, and stroke.
Our program prides itself on personal attention and accessibility, bringing patients:
- Experts in in heart transplantation, with over 300 heart transplants performed since 2001.
- Experts in mechanical assist devices, with more than 900 VADs implanted since 2001.
- Excellent outcomes that compare favorably to the best heart transplant centers in the nation.
Joint Commission's Gold Seal of Approval
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