Heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer efficiently pump blood through the body, depriving the body and its critical organs of oxygen. Patients with heart failure often feel very tired, have a loss of appetite, experience swelling in the extremities and have shortness of breath, among other symptoms. This condition can be caused by high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, valvular disease, and previous heart attacks.

Diagnosing Heart Failure

To diagnose heart failure, our experienced cardiologists will perform or order a range of tests, including a full physical exam and blood work. Other diagnostic tests may include:

  • An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), which uses small electrodes attached to the chest to record the heart rhythm.
  • Echocardiogram, a safe and painless test that uses ultrasound waves to produce an image of a beating heart. An "echo" reveals the size of the heart, its pumping strength, valve function and other important information. In some cases, patients may receive a stress echocardiogram.
  • A stress test, which involves walking on a treadmill to measure the general strength of the heart and its capacity to keep up with the patient's level of activity.
  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) involves the insertion of a thin ultrasound probe into the esophagus, giving the doctor a very clear view of the beating heart as well as the function of the heart's valves.
  • Imaging studies, including chest X-ray and MRI.
  • Cardiac catheterization, if the doctor suspects that a coronary artery blockage may be causing the symptoms.

Treating Heart Failure

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, our care team will develop a treatment plan that is right for the patient's specific needs. Treatment for heart failure may include:

  • Medications, including interventions for high blood pressure
  • Lifestyle modifications such as quitting smoking, losing weight, dietary changes and increased physical activity
  • Implantable devices that help maintain the heart rhythm such as a heart defibrillator or pacemaker
  • Surgical procedures such as coronary bypass surgery or valve surgery