Congestive heart failure is a condition that afflicts over five million Americans at the moment, and at least half a million new cases are being reported each year. Fortunately, advances in medicine make this condition highly manageable. Indeed, there are many treatment options for congestive heart failure depending on the stage of the disease. Here we describe some of these treatment options.
Medications. The first line of treatment for the symptoms of advanced congestive heart failure is a combination of medications. The most common medications used for this purpose are:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor. This is a vasodilator used to improve blood flow, decrease the work of the heart, and improve salt and water retention. All in all, they improve and prolong the lives of patients with congestive heart failure.
- Angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB). This is used as an alternative to ACE inhibitors in patients who do not respond well to the latter.
- Digoxin. Also known as digitalis, this drug increases the strength of heart contractions and slows down the heartbeat.
- Beta blocker. This drug reduces heart rate and blood pressure.
- Diuretics. Also known as water pills, these drugs keep fluids from collecting in your body by making you urinate frequently.
- Aldosterone antagonist. This drug works in the same way as diuretics do without stripping the body of potassium. It can also reverse heart scarring.
Surgery and implantation. When advanced congestive heart failure sets in, doctors advise patients to get surgery to fix the underlying cause of heart failure. A surgery may be performed to repair a damaged heart valve, or replace the whole muscle altogether. Coronary bypass targets coronary arteries that have contributed to heart failure.
Closely related to surgery is the implantation of medical devices. These help the heart to perform its pumping action, without putting too much stress on it. Some of the most common medical devices used in treating advanced congestive heart failure are the following:
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). This device is implanted under the skin and connected to the heart by small wires. It monitors the rhythm of the heart and shocks the heart back in place when it starts beating at a dangerous cardiac rhythm.
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) or biventricular pacing. More popularly known as a pacemaker, this device sends timed electrical impulses to the lower chambers of the heart so that they will pump in synchrony.
- Left ventricular assist device (LVAD). Also known as a heart pump, this device is implanted in the abdomen and attached to the heart to help it pump. Only candidates for heart transplant usually have this device implanted.
- Experimental treatments. Research and advances in medicine give birth to new treatment options for advanced congestive heart failure. These include the following:
- Cardiac wrap surgery. In this treatment option, the base of the heart is wrapped in a mesh bag to prevent it from further weakening.
- Ventricular restoration surgery. This surgery involves removing the scar tissue in the ventricular muscle and reshaping the remaining tissue to a more normal elliptical left ventricular shape. Researchers hope that this will restore the left ventricle to its normal function.