What is heart failure?

Heart failure, sometimes referred to as congestive heart failure or CHF affects about five million adults in the United States. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the needs of the body’s other organs. With this condition, the heart isn’t keeping up with the demands of the body either at rest or during exercise.

In addition to affecting how well your heart pumps blood, heart failure interferes with normal kidney function. When the kidneys cannot properly eliminate sodium and waste from the body, the body retains excess fluid.

The specially trained advanced heart failure cardiologists at Ohio State are experts in delivering excellent congestive heart failure care, close to home in Columbus. Our physician team is sub-specialty trained in advanced heart failure and heart transplantation to give our patients access to highly specialized care.

Heart failure causes

Heart failure or congestive heart failure can lead to irreversible damage. In some cases, you may even need to undergo a heart transplant or mechanical cardiac support. The condition often runs in families, so it’s important to know your family history. Heart failure is usually a sign of an underlying heart problem, such as:

Heart failure symptoms

Though these vary from person to person, the signs and symptoms of heart failure can include:

  • Inability to physically handle exercise
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the legs and feet
  • Weight gain

What are the types of heart failure?

Ohio State cardiologists and heart and vascular surgeons provide diagnosis and treatment for a wide variety of cardiac failure, including:

Heart failure diagnosis

Our cardiovascular doctors offer the latest in heart tests and diagnostics to accurately diagnose your heart condition as quickly as possible.

Learn more

Heart failure treatment

Ohio State's Heart and Vascular Center treats more than 2,000 heart failure patients each year. Our approach to treatment is to start with the simplest, least invasive steps, such as medication, lifestyle changes and sleep apnea evaluation.

If symptoms persist, we move up to more invasive procedures only as needed. For those requiring advanced treatment, Ohio State is the only program in the region performing implantation of artificial heart pumps, ventricular assist devices (VADs) and heart transplantation.

Here, your care is managed by a multidisciplinary team of heart specialists and nurse practitioners who work in collaboration with nurses, pharmacists, social workers, dietitians, heart surgeons and cardiac rehabilitation specialists to provide both routine care and advanced treatment options not found elsewhere in central Ohio.

Treatment for congestive heart failure depends on the cause of the disease, and your team of specialists will decide which combination of treatments is right for your unique situation.

Treatment with medications

Medications include:

  • Aldosterone blockers
  • Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Antiarrhythmic medications
  • Beta-blockers
  • Digoxin
  • Diuretics
  • Nitrates
  • Vasodilators

Your cardiologist may prescribe other medications to increase heart strength, control rhythm problems and increase pumping action.

Treatment with surgery

While we consider less-invasive solutions first, surgical procedures include:

Heart failure diet

Researchers and cardiac experts have found that there’s an important link between sodium (salt) intake and your chance for future heart problems.

What is sodium?

Sodium is a naturally occurring mineral found in foods you eat and within your body. Most foods contain a small amount of sodium, which we need to live. However, most people today eat more sodium than their bodies need to function properly.

Sodium and heart failure

Eating too much sodium causes your body to retain extra fluid, which leads to increased blood pressure and swelling (edema). Increased blood pressure puts more stress and strain on your heart and blood vessels, which can lead to breakdown and complications over time.

What’s my sodium limit?

As a cardiac patient, you should aim for a daily sodium intake of between 1,500 and 2,000 milligrams.

Resources for patients

This series of videos provides education and helpful information for people diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

Why choose Ohio State for heart failure care?

If you have any type of heart failure, you need an experienced team on your side that can get the condition under control and provide you relief from your symptoms. Heart and vascular experts at Ohio State are highly experienced, seeing a large number of patients each year. Our subspecialty-trained team offers the latest in diagnostic and treatment options for congestive heart failure.

For central Ohioans, Ohio State allows you to keep your care local to Columbus throughout the entire spectrum of treating your condition. You don't have to travel outside of Columbus for your regular appointments, advanced procedures or follow-up care. For those who live outside Columbus, care can be coordinated between specialists at Ohio State and your local care providers.

Ohio State patients also have the opportunity to stay with one care team from diagnosis to transplant care and even follow-up care well beyond transplant surgery.

Plus, Ohio State is home to the Frick Center for Heart Failure and Arrhythmia, the first center of its kind in the nation treating patients who suffer from the complexities of both heart failure and heart arrhythmia.

We completed our first heart transplant in 1986. Hundreds of heart transplants later, our program remains central Ohio’s only adult heart transplant program. In addition, Ohio State is certified to implant the temporary CardioWest™ Total Artificial Heart, which serves as a bridge to transplant for the most critically ill patients. Patients at Ohio State are often the first to benefit from heart and vascular research done right here at The Ohio State University. If you’ve already been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and are looking for a second opinion, our heart experts may be able to help. Ohio State is home to a team leading the research and clinical trials to improve treatment of heart failure that may not be available elsewhere.

Ohio State also is home to a team of subspecialist cardiologists who are specifically trained in advanced management of heart failure and heart transplant, dedicating their time to perfecting treatment for those individual patients.

Our Doctors

What is Heart Failure?

Ayesha Hasan, MD, a heart failure specialist at Ohio State’s Heart and Vascular Center, explains what heart failure is and the common symptoms and treatments for heart failure.

Heart Failure Treatment

With no previous history of heart disease, Lisa Hipp was surprised when doctors at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center's Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital diagnosed her with heart failure.

How to eat with heart failure

Learn the basics of how to eat for heart failure, including the importance of limiting fluids, limiting salt and how to track your weight.

Treating the Sleep Apnea and Heart Failure Connection

Making connections with sleep apnea is aiding the treatment of patients with heart failure.

Why Choose Ohio State for Heart Failure Care

Heart failure specialist, Ayesha Hasan, MD, explains our care and approach

What is Advanced Heart Failure?

Advanced heart failure is when a heart becomes so weak that it no longer pumps enough blood to the rest of the body. Symptoms can include exercise intolerance, fatigue, fluid retention, swelling and shortness of breath. Sitaramesh Emani, MD, a cardiologist at The Ohio State Universitys Wexner Medical Center, is board-certified in both advanced heart failure and heart transplantation and provides the kind of specialized care patients with advanced heart failure require.

Ohio State Advances Heart Failure Care

Ohio State led the national study of a new heart failure monitoring device and was the first in the nation to use the device in patients after it received FDA approval.

Cardiac Care at Ohio State

Patients receiving care at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center have access to a large team of specialists, which can be helpful in diagnosing and treating difficult or unique cases.

Bob Garner: Advanced Heart Failure

Bob Garner suffered with congestive heart failure for years. Heart failure doctors at the Ross Heart Hospital created a treatment path for Bob that involved advanced therapies, including a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and, eventually, a heart transplant.

How Ohio State treated a unique heart failure

Brent Lampert, DO, an advanced heart failure specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital, explains how his team approached care for their patient Bob Garner, who was suffering from advanced heart failure. 

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