While the name heart failure makes it sound like the heart has stopped working entirely – and there are no remedies or treatments – this is not the case. In fact, heart failure is a surprisingly common condition, affecting as many as five to six million U.S. adults, with a variety of treatment options.

Patients with heart failure often struggle with related conditions or symptoms that can be challenging to develop an effective treatment plan for and have a major impact how they feel day-to-day. That’s why, from the moment of diagnosis throughout your entire journey, the Advanced Heart Failure Program at Georgia Heart Institute takes a comprehensive and personalized approach to your care.

What is heart failure?

Put simply, heart failure means the heart is not able to pump blood as well as it should. As a result, it’s not able to meet the needs of the body and essential organs. When these cells don’t have the oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood they need, the body tries to compensate and meet the demand. In some cases, this may lead to an enlarging of the heart or a faster heart rate. Without proper treatment and care, heart failure will only progress and worsen overtime.

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

The symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Cough that worsens when lying down
  • Waking up suddenly at night from sleep due to shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Frequent urination
  • Shortness of breath during non-strenuous activities
  • Swelling of the feet, legs, ankles or stomach
  • Weight gain
What are the risk factors for heart failure?

The primary risk factors for heart failure are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease or heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive Alcohol use
  • Drug abuse

Why Choose Georgia Heart Institute?

The Advanced Heart Failure Program at Georgia Heart Institute brings together a team of life-changing innovators to help patients with heart failure maintain their quality of life through access to specially trained care teams, advanced technology and clinical trials.

Patient-Centered Care

Every facet of our Advanced Heart Failure Program was strategically designed to ensure the best possible health outcomes and promote a better quality of life for our patients.

Each patient’s journey is tailored specifically to them through our patient navigation program and enriched through discovery and new technologies that provide better patient outcomes.

We offer therapies and treatment options that meet you where you are, including nutritional coaching, customized rehabilitation and lifestyle education. From diagnosis and the earliest, most-treatable stages of the disease to the most advanced stages of heart failure, we offer resources, expertise and advanced treatments to improve quality of life for our patients.

Life-Changing Innovators

As Georgia’s most forward-thinking heart and vascular program, Georgia Heart Institute brings together specially trained advanced heart failure fellowship trained cardiologists, VAD coordinators, renowned cardiothoracic surgeons, advanced practitioners and nursing staff into a dedicated program for heart failure. Enriched with the latest technology and research in heart failure care, our program is among the best in the nation for heart failure.

Our heart failure care team not only meets, but exceed the highest clinical quality standards, ensuring better outcomes for patients, fewer complications and reduced readmissions to treat heart failure or its related conditions.

Heart Failure Conditions We Treat

Oftentimes, heart failure is thought of as one condition, but there are technically several different types. These different types correspond to the part of the heart impacted by disease (e.g., right-sided and left-sided). Left-sided heart failure is the most common.

Congestive Heart Failure

While this term may be used interchangeably with heart failure, this is technically a more urgent form of the disease. Congestive Heart Failure occurs when blood flow is backed up and slowed to the point of congestion and swelling in the body’s tissue. Oftentimes, this swelling affects the legs and ankles. Congestive heart failure can also cause fluid build-up in the lungs, known as pulmonary edema.

Vascular & Structural Heart Diseases

Heart failure is often the result of another underlying condition, like heart valve diseases or coronary artery disease. When these other conditions are left untreated, they may cause permanent damage and eventually cause heart failure. Addressing these other, underlying conditions is often an important part of heart failure care.

Heart Failure Services

The Advanced Heart Failure Program at Georgia Heart Institute offers a variety of effective and customizable treatments to help manage the disease and improve quality of life. While there is no known cure for heart failure, there are a range of different options that may be taken alone or in combination to address and improve heart function.

Patient navigation

A heart failure diagnosis can be stressful and the path to maintaining your condition and improving your quality of life can be complex. After diagnosis, our Advanced Heart Failure Program offers each of our patients access to patient navigation.

Our patient navigation team has a clinical background in heart failure and an in-depth understanding of our program, allowing them to provide valuable oversight and information throughout your journey. Your patient navigator works closely with you, your family and your care team to develop a treatment plan to meet your individual needs and answer any questions along the way.

Cardiac amyloidosis clinic

Our cardiac amyloidosis program is the second largest in the state and a unique offering to patients struggling with this rare disease. Cardiac amyloidosis is caused by abnormal proteins called amyloid building up in the tissues of the heart and it affects the heart’s ability to pump blood to the body leading to symptoms of heart failure. This protein can build up in any organ in the body and as such lead to severe life limiting symptoms.

Our specialized clinic can diagnose amyloidosis and develop a specialized multi-disciplinary treatment plan. We utilize the latest imaging technology, genetic testing and state of the art medications to diagnose and treat cardiac amyloidosis. Our physicians participate in cutting-edge research allowing our patients early access to the latest treatments, serve on national committees working to improve amyloidosis awareness and care, actively collaborate with other centers nationwide. Our approach ensures that you have access to leading expertise, right here close to home.

Pulmonary hypertension clinic

Pulmonary hypertension is a rare disease that results from increased pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs. This places strain on the heart as it tries to pump blood into the lungs and leads to symptoms of heart failure. Pulmonary hypertension can result from drug abuse (eg. meth, cocaine), rheumatologic diseases, excess weight, lung disease, clots in the lungs, liver disease and congenital heart disease. It can also be familial meaning it runs in your family due to genetic changes.

Our pulmonary hypertension clinic offers patients with this complex disease a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and treatment. Paired with research and state-of-the-art technology, our clinic ensures that our patients have access to the most recent advancements available in the treatment of pulmonary hypertension, as well as coordination of care with our pulmonary clinic and/or rheumatologists, as needed. If you or your patient has pulmonary hypertension, you can contact our Advanced Heart Failure Program for more information about this clinic.

LVAD

For patients whose hearts are severely weakened or damaged, a ventricular assist device can help the heart pump enough blood. Once surgically implanted, a LVAD provides support for the heart and improves the circulation of blood.

Our highly experienced cardiothoracic surgeons have been performing LVAD surgeries since 2018. Our program consistently provides exceptional surgical outcomes to patients based on national benchmarks, including higher success rates and significantly fewer post-surgical complications.

Our VAD Coordinator will collaborate with a team of experts to assess the ability and need a patient has for a LVAD.

Learn more.

Diuresis

Edema can be an uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous condition that heart failure patients struggle with regularly. Diuresis can be an effective remedy for edema, but it can pose unique health risks itself and patients may need more careful monitoring for diuresis. In many cases, these patients must go back into the hospital for in-patient care, but Georgia Heart Institute offers a unique solution.

Conveniently located at our Gainesville and Braselton hospital campuses, our diuresis clinic provides a safe and effective method for heart failure patients to have excessive fluid removed when it reaches a critical or urgent level without having to be admitted to the hospital.

In-home monitoring (CardioMEMS)

This technology is used to help monitor heart failure patients when they’re at home. With an implanted sensor, a patient’s fluid build up status can betransmitted directly to their heart failure cardiologist. This ensures their care needs are up to date and continually adjusting to be as effective as possible.

Learn more.

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)

Irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, and heart failure can often go hand-in-hand. Georgia Heart Institute brings highly-trained electrophysiologists together with our specialized heart failure team to ensure that all of your needs are met. For some patients, an ICD may be recommended to keep your heart rhythm within a safe range. An ICD can be set to work only when your heart needs them to, or all the time, pacing your heartbeat. Not all heart failure patients require one of these devices.

Cardiothoracic surgery

If you need more advanced care options, Georgia Heart Institute encompasses a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary team where our cardiovascular and thoracic surgeons work closely with our heart failure team to provide excellent care outcomes. With decades of experience, our nationally recognized surgeons can perform a variety of procedures, including valve repairs and replacements, as well as coronary artery bypass grafting.

Learn more.

Specialized inpatient care

When patients are admitted to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, the heart failure care team from Georgia Heart Institute is there to help provide interdisciplinary care and assist in recovery.

We also offer a 16-bed unit dedicated solely to supporting for heart failure patients and their families on their path to recovery and stability. The Woody Stewart Heart Failure Unit is second to none. Our inpatient heart failure unit offers highly innovative treatment and monitoring systems, as well as a state-of-the-art education center. The Woody Stewart Heart Failure Unit care team includes a fellowship trained Advanced Heart failure cardiologist, nurse practitioner or physician assistant, nurse navigators, heart failure trained bedside nurse, pharmacist, social worker and case manager ensuring each patient is well taken care of.

Learn more.

Research

Ongoing research and innovation to improve outcomes for heart failure patients is a critical component of our program. The doctors from our Advanced Heart Failure Program participate in studies and research that are impacting the outcomes and treatment options for patients with heart failure nationally.

Learn more.

FAQs

I already have a cardiologist. How does this program differ?

While general cardiologists are trained to care for the heart, the doctors in our heart failure program carry an additional board certification in Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology. In fact, our heart failure program includes doctors, advanced practitioners, pharmacists, nurses and navigators, all of whom are specially trained in treating heart failure and offering the latest care options to improve your quality of life.

This team also participates in the latest studies and research, sometimes piloting that research in the state of Georgia, to ensure that we are on the cutting edge of new medical technology to treat heart failure patients, helping us improve your quality of life and maintain your heart health well into the future.

If I have heart failure, should I see a specialized heart failure doctor?

Yes, even if your heart condition is stable and you are not experiencing negative side effects, like swelling or fatigue, heart failure is a serious condition that may be progressing and worsening, even if your regular checkups with a primary care physician or general cardiologist are going well.

Our experienced team of board-certified Advanced Heart Failure and Heart Transplant doctors will give you access to the most advanced monitoring technologies. They are specially trained to understand the progression of heart failure and help extend the lifetime of heart failure patients.

The main message we have for heart failure patients is to not wait to establish care with a heart failure specialist until you are experiencing worsening signs of heart failure, but to be proactive to maintain your good health now.

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