Congestive heart failure treatment in Largo, Florida

Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, begins when your heart muscle stops pumping blood as well as it should. It sounds very frightening, but heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped working.

While heart failure is a serious condition, and usually there's no cure, there is hope. Many people with heart failure lead a full, enjoyable life. With the support of the dedicated team at the Largo Advanced Heart Failure Center at Largo Medical Center, you can do the same.

To learn more about the Largo Advanced Heart Failure Center, call (727) 588-5243.

Largo Advanced Certified Heart Failure Center at Largo Medical Center

Largo Medical Center is dedicated to excellence in heart health care. Our facility has achieved the Gold Seal of Approval® from The Joint Commission, the leading healthcare accrediting agency in the U.S. This recognition means Largo Medical is a pillar of safety and quality, able to meet the rigorous quality standards set by The Joint Commission.

We have also been recognized for meeting the national standards of the American Heart Association's Get With The Guidelines®-Heart Failure quality improvement program, which results in lower readmission rates.

We are the first hospital in Pinellas County credentialed by Det Norske Veritas Healthcare, Inc. (DNV) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for ventricular assist device (VAD) implantation.

Understanding heart failure

Heart failure is a weakening of the heart that can develop over a long period of time. It doesn't mean your heart has stopped or is about to stop. A heart attack is not the same as heart failure, although it can lead to heart failure.

Heart failure begins when your heart can't pump enough nutrient-rich blood to meet your body's needs. When this happens, your muscles weaken and begin to waste away, causing fatigue.

The lack of adequate blood flow will cause your organs to progressively fail if left untreated, resulting in numerous medical complications.

When the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs, it tries to adapt. The chambers of the heart stretch to hold more blood to pump through the body with each heartbeat. Hormones are released into the bloodstream to increase the heart’s pumping power and increase blood flow into the heart chambers. These changes provide temporary relief, but over time, the heart muscle walls continue to weaken and/or stiffen. This continual weakening leads to heart failure.

Signs of heart failure

The symptoms of heart failure, which differ slightly from heart attack symptoms, may include:

  • Confusion or impaired thinking
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased thirst
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath, especially when lying down
  • Sudden weight gain of two to three pounds in one day, or five pounds in a week
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles and legs

Types of heart failure

The types of heart failure include:

Systolic left ventricular dysfunction (or systolic heart failure) occurs when the left ventricle, the chamber of the heart that pumps blood out of the heart and into the body, doesn’t contract with enough force, so less oxygen-rich blood is pumped throughout the body.

Heart failure with preserved left ventricular function (diastolic heart failure) occurs when the heart contracts normally, but the ventricles do not relax properly or are stiff. This causes less blood to enter the heart during normal filling. In this case, the ejection fraction (EF) may be normal. EF measures how efficiently your heart pumps blood each time it contracts.

Measuring your heart's efficiency

During each heartbeat cycle, the heart contracts and relaxes. When your heart contracts, it ejects blood from the two pumping chambers (ventricles). When your heart relaxes, the ventricles refill with blood.

The term "ejection fraction" refers to the percentage of blood pumped out of a filled ventricle with each heartbeat. In most cases, the term “ejection fraction” refers to left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF).

A normal LVEF ranges from 50 to 70 percent. An EF of 35 to 40 percent may confirm a diagnosis of systolic heart failure. Someone with diastolic failure can have a normal EF.

The LVEF may be lower when the heart muscle has become damaged due to a heart attack, heart muscle disease or other causes.

Heart failure services and treatments

Our multidisciplinary team approach means we develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to fit you and your specific condition. This means you may also have special consultations with members from our nutrition, pharmacy, social work and palliative care services.

Heart failure evaluations and diagnostic testing

Depending on the stage of your condition, the evaluations and heart screening and imaging you undergo may involve blood work and screening tests that use X-rays and/or radiology. Other tests and imaging include:

  • Ultrasound of the heart (echocardiography)
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the heart
  • Nuclear medicine scan of the heart, also called a nuclear stress test
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan of the heart

Review of medications

A cardiologist will review your medical history, speak with your other physicians and prescribe medications to help control your heart failure. The correct medications can mean the difference between suffering and living more comfortably.

Implantation of ventricular assist devices

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical device which pumps blood through the body when the heart is too weak to pump blood adequately on its own. It helps the heart pump blood, but doesn't replace the heart. At Largo Medical Center, we specialize in left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation, and we are the first facility in Pinellas County to successfully implant one. The type of LVAD used at Largo Medical Center is a continuous flow, implantable pump.

An LVAD is surgically attached to the left ventricle and to the aorta, the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to the entire body.

The device is an external system including a small controller and two batteries attached by an external tube, which passes through the skin. The wearable system is either worn under or on top of clothing.

A LVAD device implanted around a person's heart

This is what an LVAD looks like when implanted.

Becoming an approved LVAD candidate at Largo Medical Center

If you have advanced heart failure and all other medical therapies have been unsuccessful, you may be a candidate to receive an LVAD. Compared to medication management only, these devices can help you live longer and enjoy an improved quality of life.

Not everyone with advanced heart failure is a good candidate for this treatment. Largo Medical Center's Mechanical Circulatory Support Program will determine if you are a candidate for this therapy after an extensive evaluation process of laboratory and diagnostic tests.

A team of nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers, palliative care specialists, nutritionists and financial advisors will meet to review the results and determine if you meet criteria for this therapy.

Purposes of LVAD

There are three main purposes LVADs serve. They serve:

  • As a bridge to recovery when experiencing the type of heart failure (such as viral infections or postpartum heart disease) that may reverse itself with temporary support
  • As a bridge to transplant, as temporary support until a donor heart becomes available
  • As destination therapy, as long-term therapy when heart transplantation is not an option

Heart transplantation at Largo Medical Center

Largo Medical Center is the first hospital in Pinellas County to offer heart transplantation services. Once all medications and therapies have been exhausted, a heart transplant may be necessary to treat advanced heart failure. As a cardiology and heart transplant leader, you will receive elite, compassionate care as you embark on the path for a heart transplant.