About this disease
What it is about
Heart failure can occur as a result of very different heart diseases. It occurs when the heart is no longer able to pump the amount of blood required for normal functioning and performance of the body. Mild forms only become noticeable during greater physical exertion. Severe heart failure can cause discomfort with even minor exertion or even at rest. Treatment varies depending on the cause and may consist of drug therapy, catheter intervention or surgery.
The main causes of heart failure are heart attacks, which lead to a loss of heart muscle tissue and thus weaken the pumping power; insufficiently treated high blood pressure, which leads to a thickening of the heart wall; and diseases of the heart valves, which act as valves between the heart chambers and the large blood vessels. The causes can be numerous. In some cases, however, no explanation can be found for the impaired pumping function.
Symptoms and consequences
As a result of the reduced output, sufferers are less able to perform, which can be noticeable during sports, but also during everyday activities. Complex hormonal mechanisms cause fluid to be retained in the body in heart failure. This can lead to weight gain, swollen feet and shortness of breath. Typically, in pronounced cases, shortness of breath occurs while lying down, for example, at night. Sufferers put the head of the bed up or have to get out of bed. In severe cardiac insufficiency, arrhythmias, dizziness or loss of consciousness may occur.
What we do for you
Examination and diagnosis
A suspected heart failure can be confirmed with the aid of heart ultrasound, known as echocardiography. In many cases, this examination can also identify the cause. Wall structure, size of the heart chambers, pumping force and function of the heart valves can be assessed in detail. The history as well as X-ray and laboratory examinations complement the ultrasound findings and make it possible to plan the further procedure with the patient.
If circulatory problems are the cause of the heart failure, a cardiac catheterization is required, during which the narrowing of the coronary arteries can be repaired. Catheter-based therapies are often used for valvular heart disease, and surgery is sometimes required. In these cases, treatment planning is done in close cooperation with center hospitals in the region. Muscular weakness of the heart is treated with medication, often with very good success. Diuretics are used to regulate fluid balance.