Heart Failure

When heart isn't able to pump enough blood for your body’s needs, we are here to help.

Heart Failure

If you’re experiencing heart failure symptoms, time is on your mind. It’s on ours, too. Nearly three decades of innovation have resulted in proven therapies for heart failure, which affects one in five adults age 40 and older.

The good news? Early diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle changes can mean a second chance for a longer, more fulfilling life. CHI Health’s comprehensive heart failure program and team of experts offer highly specialized, proven treatments to help patients with heart failure get back to the life they love.

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition that means the heart isn't able to pump enough blood for your body’s needs. The heart muscle does not pump as strongly as it should. This causes the fluid from the blood to back up into the lungs or other parts of your body such as the ankles, legs and the abdomen. A diagnosis of heart failure does not mean the heart has stopped working. It does mean the heart is muscle has weakened over time.

At first, the heart tries to keep up with its workload by getting larger. The chambers stretch out so they can contract more strongly and pump more blood. The heart develops more muscle mass because the contracting cells get bigger and the heart is able to pump more strongly, for a while. Blood vessels get narrower to keep blood pressure up. The body diverts blood from less important tissues and organs so it can maintain blood flow to the heart and brain. Learn more about heart failure symptoms.

The Heart Failure Management Program at CHI Health provides outpatient treatment and education to help chronic heart failure patients live longer, more rewarding lives. Intravenous therapy, monitoring and education are done in an outpatient setting to avoid hospitalization and decrease overall treatment costs. A multidisciplinary team, consisting of a physician, nurse, pharmacist, dietitian and others, participates in the care and support of the patient to obtain optimal therapy outcomes.

Patients can be confident that no matter which CHI Health hospital they choose, they will receive the same high standard of care for heart failure. Learn more about heart failure treatments.

Types of Heart Failure

Left-Sided Heart Failure

When the heart pumps, it moves oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the left atrium, and then into the left ventricle, which pumps it throughout the body. See how the heart works.

Because the left ventricle provides most of the heart's pumping power, it's larger than the other chambers and vital for normal function. In left-sided or left ventricular (LV) heart failure, the left side of the heart must work harder to pump the same amount of blood.

There are two types of left-sided heart failure.

  • Systolic failure: When the heart muscle contracts or beats, it pumps blood out of the heart. In systolic failure, the left ventricle loses its ability to contract normally. The heart can't pump with enough force to push enough blood into circulation.
  • Diastolic failure (also called diastolic dysfunction): The heart relaxes between beats, allowing blood to fill up its chambers. In diastolic failure, the left ventricle loses its ability to relax normally (because the muscle has become stiff). The heart can't properly fill with blood during the resting period between each beat.

Right-Sided Heart Failure

The right side of the heart pumps "used" blood that returns to the heart through the veins through the right atrium and into the right lower chamber (ventricle). The right ventricle then pumps the blood back out of the heart into the lungs where it picks up oxygen.

Right-sided or right ventricular (RV) heart failure usually occurs as a result of left-sided failure. When the left ventricle fails, increased fluid pressure is, in effect, transferred back through the lungs and can damage the heart's right side. When the right side loses pumping power, blood backs up in the body's veins. This usually causes swelling in the legs and ankles (edema).

Congestive Heart Failure

As the heart's pumping becomes less effective, it works harder. The heart muscle becomes enlarged. The kidneys receive less blood and compensate by filtering less fluid, salt and waste out of circulation and into the urine.

Excess fluid in the blood increases the volume of blood, causing blood pressure to increase. Fluid may build up in the lungs, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and the arms and legs. This is called fluid "congestion" and for this reason doctors call this "congestive heart failure".  As blood pressure increases, it can damage the blood vessels of the heart and kidneys and those throughout the body.