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Advanced Heart Failure


Advanced Heart Failure

If you have been diagnosed with advanced heart failure, come see the cardiovascular experts at Augusta University Health for comprehensive treatment, care, and management of your symptoms.

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Augusta University Medical Center, in Augusta, Georgia, is rated high performing in heart failure as reported in US News and World Report - 2021 US News Best Hospitals Ranking.

Augusta University Medical Center, in Augusta, Georgia, is rated high performing in heart failure as reported in US News and World Report - 2021 US News Best Hospitals Ranking.

Our Approach

The Advanced Heart Failure Program is an important part of Heart and Vascular Care at AU Health. Our program is made up a knowledgeable multidisciplinary team who treat patients in all stages of heart failure (HF) at our multiple locations throughout Augusta, GA and the surrounding area.

We understand how serious advanced HF is and that patients want every opportunity to live longer, more fulfilling, lives. Our board-certified advanced heart failure cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeon's goal is to give every patients a chance to do just that. We offer:

  • Goal directed medical management: Choosing the right combination of medications can be tricky. Our advanced HF providers have the expertise to order the right combination of medicines to reduce symptoms, prevent hospital admissions, and increase quality of life. You will be seen regularly at the Heart Failure Clinic to manage your symptoms.
  • Access to the HF multidisciplinary team: Includes highly-trained cardiologists, nurse practitioners, cardiothoracic surgeons, HF coordinator, pharmacists, dietitians, nurses, social workers, and palliative care providers.
  • CardioMems: A device that allows us to remotely identify the fluid load on your heart prior to you ever experiencing symptoms of shortness of breath and swelling. This means we can treat you faster.
  • Ventricular Assist Device (VAD): A device that helps the ventricles of the heart pump blood to the rest of the body. The VAD can be surgically implanted in patients who have severe heart failure with limited options.
accreditation badge for Get With The Guidelines®  Heart Failure: Gold Plus

Quality Achievement Award

Get With The Guidelines® Heart Failure: Gold Plus

This inpatient quality program strives to improve outcomes for heart failure patients including reduced readmissions; and increased healthy days at home.

Hospitals receiving Get With The Guidelines® Gold Plus Achievement Award have reached an aggressive goal of treating patients with 85 percent or higher compliance to core standard levels of care as outlined by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association® for 2 consecutive calendar years. In addition, those hospitals have demonstrated 75 percent compliance to (four out of ten heart failure quality measures or four out of seven stroke quality measures) during the 12-month period.

The term heart failure means that the heart is struggling to keep up with its workload. Your body depends on the heart’s pumping action to deliver oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your cells. With heart failure, the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.

Causes of heart failure

Most people who develop heart failure have (or had) another heart condition. The most common conditions that can lead to heart failure are:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Previous heart attack

What are the risk factors that can lead to heart failure?

Some risk factors are irreversible and cannot be changed, the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing heart failure, these include:

  • Family history (genetics)
  • History of heart attacks

Other factors can be modified, treated, or controlled through medication or lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol over the years
  • Obesity or having a body mass index “BMI” of 30 or greater
  • Smoking and/or drug use

Additional conditions that contribute to the development of heart failure:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Heart valve disease
  • Heart arrhythmias (irregular beats)
  • Low red blood cell count
  • Myocarditis
  • Severe lung disease
  • Thyroid disease

What is ejection fraction?

An important term to understand is ejection fraction (EF). Your EF reflects how well your left ventricle (or right ventricle) is pumping blood with each heartbeat. Your EF can go up and down based on your heart condition and how well your treatment is working.

  • Ejection fraction (55-70%): Heart’s pumping ability is normal. However, even though heart function is normal you may have heart failure with preserved EF (HFpEF).
  • Ejection fraction (40-54%): Heart’s pumping ability is slightly below normal.
  • Ejection fraction (35-39%): Heart’s pumping ability is moderately below normal. This could mean that you have heart failure with reduced EF (HFrEF).
  • Ejection fraction (less than 35%): Heart’s pumping ability is severely below normal. Severe heart failure with a low EF increases the risk of life-threatening conditions.

Symptoms of heart failure can range from mild to severe and can come and go. There may be times when you have no symptoms at all, but be aware, this doesn't mean your heart failure is gone. Unfortunately, it will continue to get worse over time. You may experience more (or different) signs and symptoms. If this happens, it is essential to let your doctor know! Symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

  • Confusion or impaired thinking.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm.
  • Rapid weight gain from fluid.
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia) of more than 100 beats per minute.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, feet and abdomen.

To diagnose heart failure, your doctor will carefully review your medical history, symptoms and perform a physical examination.  Using a stethoscope, your doctor can also listen to your lungs for signs of congestion and for any abnormal heart sounds.  They may examine the veins in your neck and check for fluid buildup in your abdomen and legs as well.  After that you may have:

  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • Echocardiogram (ECHO)
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG)
  • Stress test
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Heart failure is a chronic disease that will need lifelong management.  With treatment, signs and symptoms of HF can improve and your heart may even become stronger.  Here's what you can do:

  • Track your daily fluid intake.
  • Participate in our cardiac rehabilitation program
  • Get no more than 7-8 hours of sleep per night
  • Avoid or limit caffeine consumption
  • Keep track of your symptoms
  • Manage your stress
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet
  • If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about weight loss options.

Our Providers

Augusta University Medical Center specialists provide care and support throughout your entire healthcare journey.

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