Heart attack, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and damaged heart valves and muscle can all lead to heart failure — a lifelong condition that requires individualized treatment. Dr. Thomas To, director of Renown’s Advanced Heart Failure Program, explains more about this condition and options for treatment.
While more than 5 million Americans are living with heart failure, studies have shown the success of heart failure programs with manual monitoring. We asked Thomas To, M.D., director of Renown’s Advanced Heart Failure Program, to tell us about the latest in diagnosing and treating heart failure.
Understanding Heart Failure
What is heart failure and what are the symptoms?
Heart failure is a condition that develops over time. When the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands, blood pressure in the heart is elevated, leading to heart failure.
Typical symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, coughing and fluid in the lungs. And it’s important to remember that heart failure is a condition where symptoms may not appear until a late stage of the disease. That means someone may have a weak heart for a long time and not have symptoms.
Are certain people at higher risk than others?
There are many underlying causes of heart failure. In the U.S., about 50 percent of heart failure is caused by coronary artery disease.
Other causes include high blood pressure, persistent cardiac arrhythmias (such as atrial fibrillation), heart valve disease, congenital heart disease, diabetes, and infections and diseases of the heart muscle itself.
Additionally, there are outside factors like alcohol and drug abuse that can also increase your risk.
What does typical treatment look like?
The traditional standard of care for heart failure involves manual monitoring. For patients and their providers, this involves routine blood pressure checks, weight gain assessments and closely watching for the onset of symptoms.
Here at Renown, we offer the region’s only CardioMEMS at-home monitoring. With this system, care providers can closely watch for changes in pulmonary artery pressures, which have been shown to appear before other symptoms as a sign of worsening heart failure.
How does the CardioMEMS system work?
Using a catheter, the dime-sized pressure sensor is permanently implanted in the pulmonary artery. Once placed, patients can take readings of their pulmonary artery pressures from the comfort of their own home. Using a bedside unit and pillow with an antenna, the patient simply has to press a button, and the readings are automatically and securely sent to their care provider for review.
Based on CardioMEMS readings, care providers may recommend medication or lifestyle changes to help improve the patient’s artery pressures. This personalized and proactive management of heart failure has been shown to help reduce hospital admissions for heart failure patients by 37 percent.
Studies have also shown the success of heart failure programs with manual monitoring because they encourage ongoing observation by primary care physicians and specialists. These programs also offer education and additional services that assist patients and their families with lifestyle adjustments.
To learn more about Renown’s Advanced Heart Failure Program and discover helpful resources for living with heart failure, please visit Renown.org.