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Heart & Vascular Institute

Advanced Heart Failure

What is advanced heart failure?

Advanced heart failure is the last stage of the heart failure, the progressive wearing out of the heart muscle. As the heart ages, the atria and ventricles, the four chambers of the heart, weaken and are unable to pump enough blood to cells in the body.

What causes advanced heart failure?

Heart failure is a progressive disease caused by trauma to the heart, like a heart attack. Aging and high blood pressure are also contributing factors. Advanced heart failure is simply a later stage in heart failure.

What are the symptoms of advanced heart failure?

Patients in advanced heart failure experience a marked decrease in functionality when doing simple tasks requiring movement like walking short distances or bending over. Advanced heart failure is also indicated by an increase in severity of the symptoms of heart failure. These patients often experience discomfort even while at rest.

How is advanced heart failure diagnosed?

Diagnosis of advanced heart failure requires assessment from a physician according to the industry standard, the New York Heart Association’s heart failure classification scale. Your physician will determine the severity of your symptoms on a scale of one to four, four being advanced heart failure. The NYHA scale lists symptoms of stage four hear failure as follows: “Unable to carry on any physical activity without discomfort. Symptoms of heart failure at rest. If any physical activity is undertaken, discomfort increases.”

If your symptoms fit these criteria your physician may perform one or all of several different tests to determine the progression of your condition.

  • Chest x-rays show the size of your heart and your doctor may compare it to earlier x-rays to see if the heart has enlarged, an indicator of advancing heart failure. Your doctor will also look for congestion in the lungs.
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide your physician a detailed look at your heart. He or she will be able to determine size and thickness of the heart and its tissue.
  • An electrocardiogram or EKG, will help your physician locate signs of a heart attack, record any abnormal rhythms and show if the heart muscle wall is thickened, all of which contribute to advanced heart failure.
  • An echocardiogram is an ultrasound performed on the chest and shows the physician the thickness of the heart walls and how well the heart is pumping.

How is advanced heart failure treated?

While earlier stages of heart disease can be treated with medication, advanced heart failure requires more invasive procedures for treatment. There is no cure for advanced heart failure but, patients can prolong their lives through various surgical and non-surgical techniques and technologies depending on your needs and lifestyle goals.

Some types of Heart Failure can be improved by pacemakers which enhance the timing and vigor of the way the heart beats. Some can correct lethal arrhythmias which are more common in Heart Failure. These and other devices are being used more commonly in the treatment of Heart Failure.

*Information from the American Heart Association

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