What is heart failure?

Heart failure does not mean someone’s heart has stopped working. It only means that the heart has lost some of its ability to pump, reducing the force with which the heart moves blood through the circulatory system.

  • In systolic heart failure, the heart does not contract with enough force to send enough oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
  • In diastolic heart failure, the heart does not relax enough between beats, so not enough blood enters the heart to fully nourish the muscle.

Either condition can prevent blood from getting to important organs. When enough blood doesn’t get to the kidneys, these important organs filter less fluid out of the blood. The fluid eventually builds up in the lungs and the spaces between organs in the chest (which is called pleural effusion). People with heart failure may notice that their feet and legs tend to swell, and they wake at night with the need to urinate. Fluid build up in and around the lungs can make patients feel short of breath and tired.

“We have the best right here.”
Minimally invasive surgery repaired Dom Marandolo's heart, allowing it to beat normally again.

  • Certain health conditions, such as a heart attack, can overwork or damage the heart
  • Once damaged, the heart can’t pump blood as effectively as it once did
  • With a weaker heart, blood doesn’t flow where it needs to go, including the muscles and brain

  • Weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the ankles, legs and abdomen
  • Rapid or irregular heart beat

  • Medications reduce stress on your heart and improve its ability to pump
  • Implantable devices can maintain your heart rate
  • Surgery can repair blood vessel and valve problems that worsen heart failure, as well remove dead tissue to restore heart function

How We Can Help

With the right care, patients with heart failure do not have to put their lives on hold.

We specialize in advanced treatments to help patients return to a healthy, vibrant life. These treatments include medications that increase the heart’s pumping ability as well as diet and lifestyle changes that help to reduce fluid build up and improve cardiovascular health.

Surgery can also help reduce the progression of heart failure and, in some cases, enhance cardiac strength. These options include:

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG): This operation helps to restore blood flow to the heart.

Valve surgery: By repairing a leaky or poorly functioning heart valve, surgeons can help to restore normal heart function and improve blood circulation.

Left ventricle reconstruction surgery: Surgeons can remove areas of noncontracting heart muscle and repair the heart wall. This improves the pumping ability of the heart, sometimes dramatically.

Implantable pumps: The left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a battery-operated pump that maintains the heart’s ability to pump blood.

Implantable pacemakers and defibrillators: These tiny devices regulate heart rate by delivering electric shocks.

Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADS): LVADs are implantable mechanical pumps that enhance the output of the heart. The unit, positioned inside the chest, removes blood from the left ventricle and pumps it into the aorta. A battery, worn with a control unit on the outside of the chest, powers the device. LVADs help to extend the lives of end-stage heart disease patients, temporarily supplement the pumping capacity of hearts recovering from surgery or support the patient waiting for heart transplantation.

Related Information

Surgery for Heart Failure

Why Choose Us

We specialize both in conventional care as well as the most advanced, minimally-invasive approaches. Our robotic surgeons are among the most experienced on the East Coast, and the Lourdes Cardiovascular Institute helps more people with cardiovascular problems than any other health system in the region. Whenever possible, our surgeons minimize the invasiveness of surgical procedures by using tiny incisions that to do not involve separating the breast bone. The result: a swifter, more comfortable recovery.