Congestive Heart Failure and Its Treatment

Congestive heart failure treatment by traditional methods usually includes a regimen of medicine, proper diet, and modified daily activities. There are a range of options for congestive heart failure treatment. In a lot of cases the best congestive heart failure treatment is surgery. Heart Valve Surgery becomes a necessary congestive heart failure treatment when a heart valve ceases to open and close in the correct manner. Valve replacement is the most invasive congestive heart failure treatment and is classified as open heart surgery.

Congestive heart failure is precisely what it sounds like; it is a failure of the heart to properly function, and its effects on the body can be disastrous. Doctors do their best to treat the symptoms and give the patient the best prognosis possible; however, no real and conclusive cure for congestive heart failure exists currently.

Heart failure happens when the heart is unable to properly pump blood throughout the body; as a result of this, including distributing nutrients and oxygen to the tissues and then excreting the excess fluid into the urine the blood pools. This results in either a systemic or local edema as fluid builds up in the veins and organs, causing swelling of the extremities as well as the organs themselves (this fluid gathering is responsible for an excessive amount of stress on the heart as fluid accumulates in the pleural cavity as well as the dyspnea, or difficulty breathing, often symptomatic of heart failure). The swelling and lack of oxygen and nutrients can result in permanent damage to the organs if left untreated, providing a very poor outlook for the patient.

The first stage of treatment for congestive heart failure generally consists of the administration of extra oxygen to attempt to return the oxygen levels in the tissues to normal. Once oxygen has been administered and a pulse oximeter reveals blood oxygen levels to be acceptable the focus will shift to attempting to treat the fluid accumulation in the body. Diuretics will be given to assist the excess fluid on its path via the urinary tract out of the body, and nitrates are administered to cause the vessels to dilate, allowing blood to flow more freely without the heart having to work as hard. Treatment with diuretics is frequently accompanied by supplemental potassium, as the body will excrete potassium in the urine and long term hypokalemia can result in muscle weakness or paralysis, as well as an increased risk of fatal cardiac arrhythmia.

Patients will often be sent home from the hospital with diuretics, as well as a medication known as an ACE inhibitor (an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor) which stops the body from making angiotensin, a substance that raises blood pressure and causes the blood vessels to constrict. An angiotensin II receptor blocker may also be given if the patient continues to make angiotensin. Patients may also be treated with vasodilators other than ACE inhibitors, especially if they have responded badly to treatments with ACE inhibitors in the past. Nitroglycerin is a commonplace example of this kind of medication.

Digitalis, or Digoxin, can also be prescribed to strengthen the force of the heart's contractions, aiding it to send blood through the entire body. Treatment with a beta blocker is also advantageous in cases of congestive heart failure, preventing the heart from beating more rapidly in an effort to compensate for the poor movement of the blood in the body and placing more stress on the weakened muscle.

Blood thinners are administered to help stop the formation of clots in the body that may be caused by the decreased movement of the blood in the vessels. Coumadin and heparin are the most commonly prescribed blood thinners in use; however, due to an increased risk of bleeding, patients taking these medications must undergo coagulation tests often.

Lifestyle changes are as important as medications in the long term treatment of congestive heart failure. Patients should consult with their physician to create an appropriate (low sodium) diet and exercise program, and should do a minimum of some moderate exercise every day. Just as important is taking enough time to rest daily. The heart pumps more easily when the body is resting, which is vital to an already overstressed muscle. The nicotine from cigarettes causes an increase in the heart rate, blood pressure, and the tendency for clumping in the blood vessels; patients with congestive heart failure should refrain from smoking. Flu or pneumonia can be very hard for hearts that are failing as they try to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. It is very vital that patients receive an annual Flu vaccine, as well as a dose of the pneumococcal vaccine, which will protect them from the pneumococcal bacteria that cause over eighty percent of cases of bacterial pneumonia. Wearing loose clothing will help in preventing blood clots and easing blood flow to the extremeties, and in cases of very warm or very cold temperatures it is important that the patient take all precautions necessary to keep the body at an appropriate temperature ..

Researchers are still looking for a cure for congestive heart failure; however, until then it is very important that patients suffering from congestive heart failure follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor. With careful attention to maintaining their condition, the outlook associated with congestive heart failure increases dramatically.