As one of the leading cardiology programs in the region, cardiologists at the University of Vermont Medical Center offer a broad range of treatments for congestive heart failure and all types of cardiac problems. Patients have access to cutting-edge technology and work with highly trained and experienced cardiologists who are on the frontiers of cardiac medicine.
We are proud to be one of nine medical centers in the United States chosen to be part of the National Institutes of Health's Heart Failure Clinical Research Network. As a result, patients at the UVM Medical Center are among the first in the nation to have access to new, ground-breaking treatments for congestive heart failure.
As a major stakeholder in the state and region's health care system, we are leading efforts to examine and improve congestive heart failure care for patients. We have partnered with the Vermont Department of Health to create a statewide database of patients with reduced heart functioning, among other efforts, with the ultimate goal of reducing hospitalizations for these patients.
We will soon have in place an automated call-back system for heart failure patients that will allow us to detect significant changes very early and intervene before things worsen.
Congestive Heart Failure Treatment Options
Often, patients with heart failure can be successfully treated through non-surgical methods.
Lifestyle changes can help relieve congestive heart failure symptoms and prevent the condition from getting worse.
- Quit Smoking - Smoking damages heart and blood vessels. If you want to quit smoking, your doctor can recommend a program to help you.
- Eating Plan - Eating healthy is an important way to improve your condition. Patients with heart failure should consider limiting fats and cholesterol, along with alcohol and fluids. Eating less salt is also important. A dietician can help develop a nutritious eating plan that is right for you.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight - If you are overweight, losing weight can be an important factor in improving your health. The UVM Medical Center dietitians can design a weight-loss plan that meets your needs.
- Physical Activity - Moderate physical activity most days of the week for patients with congestive heart failure can keep the rest of your body healthy and reduce demands on your heart. Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
Heart failure patients may benefit from the UVM Medical Center's Cardiac Rehabilitation program.
There are various medications that may be used to treat congestive heart failure. Many are geared towards treating the specific underlying causes of your condition. At the UVM Medical Center, we offer the full range of medical therapies and the latest medicines available for patients with heart failure. These treatments include:
- Diuretics - Also known as water pills, these drugs help reduce fluid buildup in the body. They can lessen congestion in the lungs and reduce swelling in the abdomen, legs and feet.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors - These medicines reduce the formation of angiotensin, a substance that causes blood vessels to constrict, resulting in increased blood pressure. ACE inhibitors lower blood pressure and reduce strain on the heart.
- Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) - These drugs block the action of angiotensin, preventing and limiting its negative impact on the blood vessels and the heart. They may be an alternative for patients who cannot tolerate ACE inhibitors.
- Digitalis - This drug, also known as Digoxin, increases the force of your heart muscle's contractions, helping it beat more strongly.
- Beta blockers - Beta blockers help decrease the demand on your heart, helping the heart muscle to relax, slowing your heart rate and lowering blood pressure, including:
- Vasodilators - This type of drug helps the blood vessel walls to widen or relax, improving blood flow and reducing strain on the heart.
- Aldosterone antagonists - These medicines help the body get rid of salt and fluid, and lower the actual amount of blood the heart pumps. In addition, they may prevent fibrosis or scarring of the heart in patients with congestive heart failure.
For cases of congestive heart failure that require surgery, the UVM Medical Center offers the full range of procedures to treat the underlying causes of your heart failure – from cardiac catheterization procedures to open-heart coronary artery bypass surgery and heart valve repair and replacement.
Angioplasty and Stenting
If your congestive heart failure is caused by coronary artery disease and blocked or clogged arteries, angioplasty and stenting procedures may be needed to help restore blood flow.
Angioplasty - UVM Medical Center cardiologists insert a catheter with a special balloon into a blocked coronary artery. The balloon is inflated to open up the artery and restore blood flow to the heart.
Stenting - This procedure involves inserting a stent - a tiny wire mesh device - into a blocked artery to keep it open, restoring blood flow to the heart. Stents are inserted using a catheter, after a balloon is used to open the artery.
Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery
If you have multiple blocked arteries, your doctor may recommend coronary artery bypass surgery.
With this more invasive procedure, surgeons open the chest and insert new blood vessels in the heart. These vessels are taken from other parts of the body and connected to the heart. They create a new pathway that bypasses clogged coronary arteries and allows blood to flow normally.
Heart Rhythm Procedures
We are fully equipped to provide advanced congestive heart failure care for the most seriously ill patients.
If you have an advanced form of heart failure, your doctor may recommend implanting a mechanical device to help keep your heart beating as strongly as possible.
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) - An ICD is a device that monitors the heart rhythm and shocks it back to a normal rhythm if it is beating at a dangerous pace. ICDs are implanted under the skin and attached to the heart with small wires.
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) or biventricular pacing - When the left and right sides of the heart no longer work together, the heart is less efficient in pumping blood through the body. CRT improves heart function by sending timed electrical impulses to both of the heart's lower chambers, enabling both sides to work in coordination and improve pumping function. The procedure involves implanting a pacemaker-type device with wires connected to specific areas of the heart.
- Heart pumps or Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADs) - Used primarily in very ill patients, these devices are external pumps that are attached to a weakened heart to help it function. Usually, LVADs are used to help keep heart transplant patients alive while they wait for a donor heart. In some cases, LVADs may be considered an alternative to transplantation. They can extend and improve the lives of people with end-stage congestive heart failure.
Learn more about the UVM Medical Center's Heart Rhythm Program.