Heart Failure

Matters of the heart

Advanced heart failure requires more advanced treatments. At Aurora, we’re at the forefront of researching how to best treat this prevalent disease. Since 1968, we’ve successfully performed hundreds of transplants and our heart transplant program ranks among the top 5% nationwide. With the latest technologies like ventricular assist device (VAD) and the CardioMEMS heart failure system, we’re helping patients live more comfortably with advanced heart failure.


Heart failure happens when your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. It doesn’t mean your heart has stopped working, but it means your cells aren’t getting the oxygen they need to keep your body healthy and functioning normally.

To compensate, your heart may enlarge, develop extra muscle mass or pump faster. Over time, this weakens your heart and worsens your health.

Lots of factors can contribute to heart failure, including heart disease, a heart attack, alcohol and drug abuse, high blood pressure and some chemotherapy medications. You’re also more likely to have heart failure if you’re male, over 65, diabetic, overweight or obese.


Some of the signs of heart failure include:

  • Coughing when you’re resting, especially when lying down
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Fatigue 
  • Feeling like your stomach is full or bloated 
  • Frequent need to urinate, especially at night
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Nausea or loss of appetite 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, abdomen and the veins in your neck
  • Weight gain due to fluid retention


If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. He or she will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. Your doctor may also order lab  or diagnostic tests, including:

Services & Treatment

If you’re diagnosed with heart failure, your doctor will work with you on a treatment plan tailored to your needs. It may include lifestyle changes to improve your health, such as losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet and getting more rest.

Your doctor may also prescribe medication, such as ACE inhibitors or diuretics. 

Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend a device to help your heart work, such as: 

  • A cardiac resynchronization therapy device (CRT), a type of pacemaker that helps both sides of your heart contract at the same time
  • An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which uses electrical pulses to keep your heart beat regular
  • A left ventricular assist device (VAD), an artificial pump that your doctor implants surgically to help your heart pump blood to the rest of your body
If more conservative treatments do not work, your doctor may recommend a heart transplant or an artificial heart (a mechanical pump that supports your heart).

Why Aurora?

Our Mechanical Circulatory Support Program is one of the largest VAD program in the nation. Our Center for Electrical Therapy of Heart Failure at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center specializes in defibrillators and pacemakers, especially CRTs. And our Tendick Center for the Surgical Treatment of Heart Failure gives you support from your care team, which includes doctors and nurses, therapists, financial counselors, pharmacists, and social workers.

A community problem

The Heart of the Matter
Listen to Aurora cardiologist Dr. Nasir Sulemanjee explain the signs and symptoms of heart failure.

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