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Heart Failure (cont.)

Surgery

People who have heart failure may have surgery to:

  • Open clogged arteries.Coronary artery bypass surgery or angioplasty may help some people who have heart failure with chest pain (angina) or who have had a heart attack.
  • Fix problems that cause heart failure, such as damaged valves.
  • Get a new heart. You have to meet certain conditions to get a heart transplant. But you may be able to have one if you have very bad, life-limiting symptoms.

Surgery Choices

For more information on bypass surgery and angioplasty, see the topic Coronary Artery Disease.

Other Treatment

If you have heart failure, you may get a device to fix a deadly heart rhythm or to help your heart pump better.

Pacemakers

Photo of a woman

One Woman's Story:

Joyce, 83

Getting a pacemaker has "made all the difference in the world. I could work in my yard, and walk my dog."—Joyce

Read about how a pacemaker helped Joyce be more active.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) uses a biventricular pacemaker which makes the heart's lower chambers (ventricles) pump in the right order. This type of pacemaker can help you feel better so you can be more active. It also can help keep you out of the hospital and help you live longer. For more information on pacemakers, see:

Click here to view a Decision Point.Heart Failure: Should I Get a Pacemaker (Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy)?

If you get a pacemaker, you have to be careful not to get too close to some devices with strong magnetic or electrical fields. These include MRI machines, battery-powered cordless power tools, and CB or ham radios. But most everyday appliances are safe. For more information, see:

Click here to view an Actionset.Heart Problems: Living With a Pacemaker or ICD.

A pacemaker may be used alone or along with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) for heart failure.

Implantable defibrillators (ICDs)

Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) can prevent sudden death from an abnormal heart rhythm and may help you live longer. An ICD checks the heart for very fast and deadly heart rhythms. If the heart goes into one of these rhythms, the ICD shocks it to stop the deadly rhythm and returns the heart to a normal rhythm. For more information, see:

Click here to view a Decision Point.Heart Failure: Should I Get an Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD)?

If you get an ICD, you have to be careful not to get too close to some devices with strong magnetic or electrical fields. These include MRI machines, battery-powered cordless power tools, and CB or ham radios. But most everyday appliances are safe. For more information, see:

Click here to view an Actionset.Heart Problems: Living With a Pacemaker or ICD.

An ICD may be used alone or along with a pacemaker for heart failure.

Ventricular assist devices (VADs)

Ventricular assist devices (VADs), also known as heart pumps, may be placed into the chest to help the heart pump more blood. VADsClick here to see an illustration. can keep people alive until a donor heart is available for transplant. In some cases, VADs may also be used as an alternative to heart transplant for long-term treatment. VADs are used in people who have severe heart failure.

Other treatments

In some cases you might have:

Supplements

Talk to your doctor before you take any over-the-counter medicine or supplement. There's no strong evidence that vitamins or other supplements can help treat heart failure. They are used along with medical heart failure treatments, not instead of treatment.

But you may still hear about supplements that might improve heart failure symptoms. But no supplement has been shown definitely to relieve heart failure or help you live longer.

Examples include coenzyme Q10, fish oil, and hawthorn.

  • Only some of the studies of coenzyme Q10 showed that it helps heart failure symptoms.1
  • Fish oil supplements have not been shown to definitely help heart failure patients feel better or live longer. But eating fish that have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna and salmon, are part of a heart-healthy diet.
  • Hawthorn is an herb that is sometimes used in Europe and Asia to try to increase blood flow to the heart.
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