Heart FailureDiagnosis & Treatment

Overview

Expert Heart Failure Treatment

At Aurora Health Care, we’re at the forefront of diagnosis and treatments for advanced heart failure. Our doctors and surgeons are among the nation’s most experienced in treating congestive heart failure.

After diagnosing the stage of your illness, informing you of treatment options and understanding your specific goals, we individualize a treatment plan for you. We never forget that you are more than just a patient. The Advanced Heart Failure Therapies program strives to provide lifesaving options to allow people to live life to the fullest.

Diagnosis

Specialized Identification & Diagnosis of Heart Failure

A heart failure diagnosis is serious. We offer the answers you and your family need to move forward with your life – and your health.

If you have symptoms of heart failure, our cardiologists (doctors who specialize in heart care) have access to the most advanced diagnostic tests available, including:

  • Blood tests: We check the function of the liver, kidneys and other organs, as well as biomarkers that can predict the severity of heart failure.
  • EKG: An electrocardiogram (EKG) checks how fast and how steadily the heart is beating. An optional additional EKG method uses a Holter monitor, which records the heart’s activity over a 24- to 48-hour period, while you do your daily activities.
  • Imaging: Your doctors may order a chest X-ray to visualize the heart and other structures in the chest. Or we may order cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to get a 3-D view of the heart. Learn more about our radiographic testing.
  • Diagnostic procedures: During a cardiac catheterization, a doctor threads a catheter (thin, flexible tube) with a fine camera through a blood vessel to examine your heart and arteries.
  • Nuclear heart scan: We might order nuclear cardiology imaging tests to check blood flow through your heart. These tests may include a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which uses a safe dose of radioactive material.
  • Testing with sound waves: Heart ultrasound, such as echocardiography, Doppler ultrasound or stress echo (used with a stress test), helps to create a moving image of the heart to understand the structure, function and condition of the heart valves.
  • Stress test: Sometimes, we test people while they exercise, so we can see how their heart functions when it is working hard. We can test people who are unable to exercise with medication instead. Learn more about stress tests.

Treatment

Comprehensive Heart Failure Treatment

Once we confirm a diagnosis of heart failure, we will work with you to develop a heart failure treatment plan tailored to your needs.

We may recommend:

  • Lifestyle changes: Healthy habits can improve your health or prevent heart failure from worsening. These changes include:
    • Losing weight
    • Exercising
    • Quitting smoking
    • Eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Medications: Your cardiologist will work with you to optimize medications designed to treat and improve your heart condition and symptoms. We also have access to the latest research therapies for patients.
  • Monitoring: We were among the first to offer CardioMEMS, a specialized monitoring system which sends your doctor regular reports about your heart pressures and flow. With regular monitoring, we are able to adjust medication or start other therapies before heart failure worsens. The CardioMEMS monitoring system can reduce hospitalizations and improves the quality of life for patients with heart failure.
  • Oxygen: For some people, using oxygen at home or from a portable tank can help ease heart failure symptoms.
  • Palliative care: When treatments are no longer effective, our full-time palliative care process supports people and their families, to help you live as comfortably as possible.

Learn more about heart failure treatments available at the Donald and Rosemary Tendick, Sr., Clinic for Advanced Heart Failure Therapies.

Devices

Devices and Advanced Treatments for Heart Failure

If more conventional heart failure treatments do not improve your condition, then we may consider a heart resynchronization pacemaker or heart replacement options (LVAD or heart transplantation). A left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, requires open heart surgery to implant the artificial heart.

Our Advanced Heart Failure Therapies program has performed more than 875 heart transplants and has implanted more than 770 artificial heart pumps. This large number of procedures shows that we offer more experience with lifesaving therapy and better results than any program in the region.

The devices that treat heart failure include:

  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT): This type of pacemaker helps both sides of your heart contract at the same time. Read about CRT.
  • CardioMEMs Pressure Sensor Device: The CardioMEMs device is a small implant that measures pressure in the pulmonary artery and transmits information wirelessly to your physician, who can adjust your treatment plan if needed. Aurora Health Care is the first program in Wisconsin to treat over 100 patients with the technology and is a top ten program in the nation.
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD): An ICD uses electrical pulses to keep your heartbeat regular. Find out more about ICDs.
  • Ventricular assist device (VAD): A VAD is a surgically implanted artificial heart pump that helps support your heart in providing vital blood flow to all your organs. Our artificial heart program is one of the largest in the nation. Learn more about VADs.

Learn more about cardiac electrophysiology.

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

ECMO is a lifesaving technology that circulates the blood outside the body while you are awaiting treatment such as a heart transplant. We have ECMO therapy available 24/7 in our emergency department. Read more about emergency heart care.

Heart Transplant

For some advanced heart failure cases, the best treatment may be heart transplant. Our surgeons have performed more than 870 heart transplants for people from all 50 states and 25 countries, and our heart transplant program ranks among the top 5% nationwide. Find out more about heart transplant.

Observation Unit

Aurora Health Care’s Cardiac Observation Unit

We offer a specialized cardiac observation unit – the only one of its kind in Wisconsin. In this unit, we provide ongoing observation and care for people who may be experiencing heart failure, but may not be having an emergency or need to be admitted to the hospital.

Our cardiac observation unit allows us to provide:

  • Immediate care: We can start heart failure treatment immediately to stabilize our patients. This care prevents further damage to the heart and brings peace of mind to you and your family.
  • 24/7 medical attention: Doctors and skilled nurses can keep an eye on you 24 hours a day. This means that even when the situation isn’t an emergency, we’ll be close at hand to care for every need.
  • Observation by cardiac experts: The nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who staff our cardiac observation unit specialize in heart failure and cardiac care. They understand your symptoms and can explain to your doctor exactly what’s going on.
  • Same-day release: Whenever possible, we send people home the same day they have a procedure, so they can be comfortable in their own homes. People may stay in the cardiac observation unit for a few hours to two days, without being admitted to the hospital.

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