The main treatments for heart failure are making lifestyle changes and taking your medicines. However, there are procedures and surgeries that may help.
Pacemakers and Defibrillators
A heart pacemaker is a small, battery-operated device that sends a signal to your heart. The signal makes your heart beat at the correct pace.
Pacemakers may be used:
- To correct abnormal heart rhythms. The heart may beat too slowly, too fast, or in an irregular manner.
- To better coordinate the beating of the heart in people with heart failure. These are called biventricular pacemakers.
When your heart is weakened, gets too large, and does not pump blood very well, you are at high risk for abnormal heartbeats that can lead to sudden cardiac death.
- An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a device that detects heart rhythms. It quickly sends an electrical shock to the heart to change the rhythm back to normal.
- Most biventricular pacemakers can also work as implantable cardio-defibrillators (ICD).
Procedures and Surgery to Improve Blood Supply to the Heart
The most common cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease (CAD), which is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. CAD may become worse and make it harder to manage your symptoms.
After performing certain tests your doctor may feel that opening a narrowed or blocked blood vessel will improve your heart failure symptoms. Suggested procedures may include:
Heart Valve Surgery
Blood that flows between the chambers of your heart, or out of your heart into the aorta, must pass through a heart valve. These valves open enough to allow blood to flow through. They then close, keeping blood from flowing backward.
When these valves do not work well, blood does not flow correctly through the heart to the body. This problem may cause heart failure or make heart failure worse.
Heart valve surgery may be needed to repair or replace one of the valves.
Surgery for End-stage Heart Failure
Some types of surgery are done for severe heart failure when other treatments no longer work. These procedures are often used when a person is waiting for a heart transplant. They are also sometimes used long term in cases when transplant is not planned or possible.
Examples of some of these devices include left ventricular assist device (LVAD), right ventricular assist devices (RVAD) or a total artificial hearts. They are considered for use if you have severe heart failure that cannot be controlled with medicine or a special pacemaker.
- Ventricular assist devices (VAD) help your heart pump blood from the pumping chambers of your heart to either the lungs or to the rest of your body These pumps may be implanted in your body or connected to a pump outside your body.
- You may be on a waiting list for a heart transplant. Some patients who get a VAD are very ill and may already be on a heart-lung bypass machine.
- Total artificial hearts are being developed, but are not yet in wide use.
Devices inserted thru a catheter such as intra-aortic balloon pumps (IABP) are sometimes used.
- An IABP is a thin balloon that is inserted into an artery (most often in the leg) and threaded into the main artery exiting the heart (aorta).
- These devices can help maintain heart function in the short term. Because they can be placed quickly, they are useful for patients who have a sudden and severe decline in heart function
- They are used in people who are waiting for recovery or for more advanced assist devices.
CHF - surgery; Congestive heart failure - surgery; Cardiomyopathy - surgery; HF - surgery; Intra-aortic balloon pumps - heart failure; IABP - heart failure; Catheter based assist devices - heart failure
Aaronson KD and Pagani FD. Mechanical circulatory support. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, et al. eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 29.
Goodlin SJ, Bonow RO. Care of patients with end-stage heart disease. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, et al. eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 31.
Mann DL. Management of heart failure patients with reduced ejection fraction. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, et al. eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 25.
Otto CM, Bonow RO. Valvular heart disease. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, et al. eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 63.
Peura JL, Colvin-Adams M, Francis GS, Grady KL, Hoffman TM, Jessup M, Ranjit J, Kiernan MS, Mitchell JE, O'Connell JB, Pagani FD, Petty M, Ravichandran P, Rogers JG, Semigran MJ, Toole JM; on behalf of the American Heart Association Heart Failure and Transplantation Committee of the Council on Clinical Cardiology, Council on Cardiopulmonary, Critical Care, Perioperative and Resuscitation, Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young, Council on Cardiovascular Nursing, Council on Cardiovascular Radiology and Intervention, and Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia. Recommendations for the use of mechanical circulatory support: device strategies and patient selection: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012;126:2648-2667. PMID: 23109468 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23109468.
Yancy CW, Jessup M, Bozkurt B, Butler J, Casey DE Jr, Drazner MH, Fonarow GC, Geraci SA, Horwich T, Januzzi JL, Johnson MR, Kasper EK, Levy WC, Masoudi FA, McBride PE, McMurray JJV, Mitchell JE, Peterson PN, Riegel B, Sam F, Stevenson LW, Tang WHW, Tsai EJ, Wilkoff BL. 2013 ACCF/AHA guideline for the management of heart failure: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2013;128:e240-e327. PMID: 23741058 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23741058.
Review Date 4/20/2015
Updated by: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.