Your heart failure treatment will depend on several factors, including the cause and severity of your condition and the overall state of your health. Your healthcare providers will carefully assess each of these factors to create a comprehensive treatment plan for you. Your treatment will include one or more of the following components:

  • Medical procedures
  • Medication
  • Lifestyle management

The goals of treatment are to ease the workload on the heart, prevent further damage, and, if possible, to improve the function of your heart.

Medical Procedures

Some people with heart failure benefit from surgical procedures or from procedures performed in the hospital's catheter laboratory (“cath lab”). These procedures can accomplish the following:

  • Open or bypass coronary arteries. If your heart failure is caused by atherosclerosis, your healthcare provider may recommend a procedure to open or bypass the arteries that deliver oxygen to the heart.
  • Repair or replace heart structures. Occasionally heart failure is caused by structural problems such as an abnormal heart valve or a hole between the chambers of the heart. In this case, your healthcare provider may suggest a procedure to repair or replace a faulty heart valve or to fix a defect.
  • Implant cardiac devices. Your healthcare provider may advise surgery to provide you with a pacemaker or other device such as an internal defibrillator. Such devices can help you maintain a healthy heart rate and rhythm and prevent life-threatening changes in your heart rhythm.
  • Replace or assist your heart. For severe, unresponsive heart failure that can't be stabilized by other means, your healthcare provider may recommend heart transplant surgery or surgery to implant an assist device (such as a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD).

Medication

Nearly every person with heart failure will receive a treatment plan that includes medication. Different medications will produce different effects. Your providers may start treatment by prescribing one or more medications, and assess their effectiveness and ensure that your body is tolerating them. They can then make adjustments to your regimen, if necessary. We recommend that you learn the purpose of your specific prescriptions. It's likely that your medications fall into these categories:

MedicationDescriptionExamples*
ACE-I/ARB therapy: ACE inhibitors or Angiotensin II receptor antagonists (ARBs)Block stress hormones and relieve stress on the heart’s pumping action. These medications improve symptoms, reduce hospitalizations, and improve survival rates.
ACE inhibitors: benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), quinapril (Accupril), ramipril (Altace)
Angiotensin II receptor antagonists (ARBs): candesartan cilexetil (Atacand)**, eprosartan mesylate (Teveten), irbesartan (Avapro)**, losartan (Cozaar), telmisartan (Micardis),
Aldosterone receptor antagonistsHelp rid the body of excess fluids, block a hormone that can cause you to retain water, and help reduce the loss of electrolytes from your body.spironolactone (Aldactone), eplerenone (Inspra)
Beta blockersBlock stress hormones, relieve stress on the heart’s pumping action, and can improve your heart’s function. Shown to reduce symptoms and lessen the chance of future hospitalizations.carvedilol (Coreg), metoprolol succinate (Toprol XL)
Diuretics (“water pills”)Help rid your body of excess fluid.bumetanide (Bumex), furosemide (Lasix), metolazone (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn), torsemide (Demedex)
MineralsReplace potassium and/or magnesium that may be lost with diuretics.magnesium oxide, potassium (K-Dur, K-tab, K-Lyte, Micro K, Slow K)
DigitalisStrengthens the heart muscle, treats irregular heart rhythms, and improves exercise tolerance.digoxin (Lanoxin)
Anticoagulants (“blood thinners”)Help prevent blood clots from forming or getting larger.heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), enoxaparin (Lovenox)
InotropesStrengthen the pumping action of the heart. Started in the hospital and requiring an IV, inotropes are usually reserved for patients with severe symptoms.dobutamine (Dobutrex), milrinone (Primacor)


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