Heart Failure

What is Heart Failure?

USNWR Heart Failure badge

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's nutrition and oxygen needs. The blood begins to back up and, as a result, the veins, tissues and lungs become congested with fluid. You may feel short of breath and tire easily. If the condition gets worse, higher heart pressure causes a buildup of fluid in the veins.

According to the American Heart Association, about 6.5 million U.S. adults have heart failure, and nearly half of patients die within five years of diagnosis. However, people with heart failure can live longer and more active lives if they are diagnosed early and follow their treatment plans.

Most people develop heart failure because of reduced function of the left ventricle (left sided heart failure). But reduced function of the right ventricle (right-sided heart failure, also known as pulmonary heart disease) can also occur in heart failure. As blood begins to back up behind the failing left ventricle and into the lungs, it becomes harder for the right ventricle to pump returning blood through the lungs. Similar to the left ventricle, the right ventricle will weaken with time and begin to fail.

Frankel Cardiovascular Center's Heart Failure Disease Management Program

The Heart Failure Program at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center offers expert medical management, access to advanced surgical care, a range of heart-assisting technology, and comprehensive rehabilitation programs. We are also a leader in circulatory support and heart transplantation.

We offer multidisciplinary care for all stages of heart failure (also known as congestive heart failure), and our physicians have broad expertise in evaluating and managing patients with weakened heart muscles. Our program offers a wide variety of treatments including medical therapy, heart-assisting technology (such as LVADs and VADs) and heart transplantation, plus heart-failure management and education.

Our inpatient team of nurse practitioners and physician assistants assure safe, collaborative, team-based care while our patients outside the hospital are monitored and supported by a team of nurses and nurse practitioners who offer support and case management by telephone.

Managing Mild to Severe Heart Failure

We see patients with mild to the most severe forms of chronic heart failure. These patients include those whose lives are threatened by acute heart failure and are candidates for (or have received) a heart transplant as the result of any form of heart failure.

Based on the severity of heart disease, our patients follow three treatment paths:

  • Patients who are able to manage the disease with medication, diet and exercise
  • Patients for whom medication diet and exercise are not enough, who require treatments such as a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD), which helps the heart pump blood to the body
  • Patients with severe heart failure who require a heart transplant

For patients in severe chronic or acute heart failure, heart-assisting technology, such as a mechanical heart pump, can offer a gateway to better long-term quality of life, or a bridge that can lead to a heart transplant. Our VAD Program (Center for Circulatory Support) is one of only a few institutions worldwide with access to many investigational and FDA-approved Ventricular Assist Devices capable of pumping blood to restore circulation of vital organs. This allows for the selection of the most appropriate device based on each patient's individual needs.

Rigorous Quality Care Goals

Because data for other health systems is not available, we measure our care against our own goals we’ve set to ensure our heart failure patients are getting the best possible care. We are rigorous in setting and achieving these quality goals for both the inpatient (hospital) and outpatient (physician office) settings. Learn more about our outcomes for heart failure and heart transplant patients in the Frankel Cardiovascular Center Activity and Outcomes Report.

For patients who are hospitalized for heart failure, we measure care level in areas such as medication use and assessment of heart pumping strength. In these areas we meet and often exceed the national average. For our outpatients, we closely monitor adherence to heart failure guidelines with over 93% of our heart failure outpatients prescribed indicated medications.

Patient Resources

Make an Appointment

To schedule an appointment to discuss heart failure or any other cardiovascular condition, call us at 888-287-1082 or visit our Make a Cardiovascular Appointment page, where you may fill out a Patient Appointment Request Form and view other details about scheduling an appointment.