Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure

Comprehensive, Personalized Care for Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a serious health condition affecting nearly five million Americans. Heart failure is a chronic disease that requires lifelong management — but it can be treated. Our goal is to help you slow down the progression of heart failure, live longer and more comfortably and improve your quality of life by addressing the underlying causes. If you are living with heart failure, The Heart Center CHF program offers comprehensive, individualized diagnosis, care, treatment and support, close to home.

Effectively treating heart failure takes a collaborative, multidisciplinary team with specialized experience and expertise that begins with advanced diagnostic cardiac imaging. Our team is with you every step of the way from diagnosis through treatment and support.

Your treatment plan may include more than one type of therapy — including medications, surgery and advanced assistive devices — based on your specific condition and the severity of your symptoms. If you, or someone you care for, has a diagnosis of heart failure, The Heart Center CHF program offers expertise and compassion to help you live as comfortably as possible.

Why Choose Us?

  • Vassar Brothers Medical Center is the first and only hospital in the Mid-Hudson Valley and northwestern Connecticut to offer extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a modified heart-lung machine that pumps oxygen into your blood, giving your heart and lungs a chance to rest as you or your family member heals. This is a new level of care that can be a bridge to recovery or to further long-term treatments. ECMO is a life-saving device and is now available close to home.
  • You are cared for by a collaborative team of cardiac specialists including the region’s only cardiologists board-certified in advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology, interventional cardiologists, nurses experienced in treating heart failure, diet and nutrition specialists, pharmacists and case managers.
  • Vassar Brothers Medical Center offers support for left ventricular assist devices, or LVADs, close to home. This mechanical pump keeps blood flowing though the body and requires specialized technology and expertise to manage. Previously, patients with LVAD complications had to travel to New York City for treatment. Now, specially trained cardiac nurses can offer you this support right here in our region.
  • Our heart failure researchers study emerging cardiac technologies and medications with a goal of adopting promising new treatments, including medications to reduce heart failure after heart attack and remote heart monitors that help identify heart failure symptoms.
  • Vassar Brothers Medical Center is recognized by U.S. News & World Report (2018-2019) as one of the nation’s highest performing hospitals for aortic valve surgery, heart failure and heart bypass.

Symptoms of Heart Failure

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider. In an emergency, always dial 911. If you are at risk for heart failure as a result of coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity, it’s important to see a Heart Center cardiologist for diagnosis and treatment. Common symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Shortness of breath or breathlessness as the result of exercise, resting or lying flat in bed. Shortness of breath may be caused by fluid in the lungs (congestion) or your heart’s inability to supply enough oxygen-rich blood. Waking suddenly at night to sit up and catch your breath may indicate severe symptoms of heart failure and you need urgent medical treatment.
  • Feeling tired or fatigued and leg weakness when you are active may indicate your heart is not pumping sufficient oxygen-rich blood to the major organs and muscles.
  • Swelling in your ankles, legs and abdomen, and weight gain. Your body holds onto extra fluid and water if your kidneys do not filter enough blood. This causes swelling and weight gain.
  • Need to urinate while resting at night. Gravity causes more blood flow to the kidneys when you are lying down so your kidneys make more urine.
  • Dizziness, confusion, difficulty concentrating or fainting are also indications your heart is not pumping enough oxygen-rich blood to the brain.
  • Rapid/irregular heartbeat or palpitations are symptoms of your heart working harder than necessary. You may also have an irregular heartbeat if your heart is larger than normal (after a heart attack or due to abnormal levels of potassium in your blood).
  • A dry, hacking cough caused by heart failure is more likely to happen when you are lying flat and have extra fluid in your lungs.
  • A full (bloated), hard stomach, loss of appetite or upset stomach (nausea) are symptomatic of the digestive system not receiving enough blood.

Other health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, anemia, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, asthma or chronic lung disease have symptoms that are similar to heart failure. If you’re experiencing new symptoms or worsening symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider or a team member at The Heart Center.

Treatment and Technology

Accurate heart failure diagnosis and treatment relies on state-of-the-art technologies that provide our medical team with clearer insights into your diagnosis. These may include:

  • Automated implantable cardioverter defibrillators (AICD)
  • Biventricular pacemakers
  • Cardiac catheterization – a thin, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel at your groin or arm and guided through the aorta into your coronary arteries. A dye injected through the catheter helps doctors spot blockages in your arteries.
  • Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT)
  • CardioMEMS HF System – the first and only FDA-approved heart failure monitoring system shown to reduce heart failure hospital admissions and improve quality of life for patients with severe forms of heart failure.
  • Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG)
  • Coronary bypass surgerya surgical procedure to bypass a severely blocked artery in your heart and allow blood to flow through your heart more freely.
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Exercise stress testingrequires you to walk on a treadmill while attached to an ECG machine, or you may receive an IV drug that stimulates your heart in a manner similar to exercise. An abnormal stress test may indicate coronary artery disease.
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)this unique, highly specialized treatment is a modified heart-lung machine that pumps oxygen into your blood, giving your heart and lungs a chance to rest as you or your family member heals. This is a new level of care that can be a bridge to recovery, or to further long-term treatments. ECMO is a life-saving device and is available right here in the Mid-Hudson Valley and northwestern Connecticut.
  • Heart valve repairto surgically modify the original heart valve; for example, to repair valve tightness or replace the ring around the valve (annuloplasty).
  • Heart valve replacement – when valve repair isn’t possible, the damaged valve is replaced by an artificial (prosthetic) valve.
  • Home care support services
  • Hospice cardiac care – for patients who have untreatable disease, our heart failure program specialists also work with hospice teams to provide skilled care at home, in a nursing facility or in the hospital to help improve quality of life for patients with heart failure.
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD) – similar to a pacemaker, an ICD is implanted under the skin in your chest to monitor and pace your heart rhythm.
  • Implantable heart failure monitors
  • Infusion therapies
  • Interventional procedures – including Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) and minimally invasive mitral valve repair
  • Medication management – most heart failure patients take one or more medications that may include the following:
    • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors widen blood vessels to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow and decrease the workload on the heart. Enalapril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Zestril) and captopril (Capoten) are ACE inhibitors.
    • Angiotensin II receptor blockers have many of the same benefits as ACE inhibitors. They may be an alternative for people who can’t tolerate ACE inhibitors. Losartan (Cozaar) and valsartan (Diovan) are angiotensin II receptor blockers.
    • Beta blockers slow your heart rate and reduce blood pressure. Beta blockers may also limit or reverse some of the damage to your heart if you have systolic heart failure. Carvedilol (Coreg), metoprolol (Lopressor) and bisoprolol (Zebeta) are beta blockers.
    • Diuretics, or water pills, make you urinate more frequently to keep fluid from collecting in your body. Diuretics, such as furosemide (Lasix), also decrease fluid in your lungs so you can breathe more easily.
    • Aldosterone antagonists such as spironolactone (Aldactone) and eplerenone (Inspra) are potassium-sparing diuretics, which may also help people with severe systolic heart failure live longer.
    • Inotropes are IV medications for severe heart failure that can be given in the inpatient or outpatient setting to help patients feel better and help to keep you out of the hospital.
    • Digoxin (Lanoxin), also referred to as digitalis, increases the strength of your heart muscle contractions and tends to slow the heartbeat. Digoxin reduces heart failure symptoms and is used to treat heart rhythm problems such as atrial fibrillation.
  • MRI of the heart
  • Pacemaker
  • Research trials for advanced technologies and medications
  • Ventricular assist devices (VADs) – use mechanical pumps attached to the heart and implanted in the abdomen or chest. A VAD helps pump blood from the lower chambers of your heart (the ventricles) to the rest of your body and may be used as an alternative to transplantation.