Heart failure, also referred to as congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart muscle can’t pump as well as it should. The chronic condition causes symptoms that can make it difficult to function or enjoy activities.
But many people can manage heart failure and lead fulfilling lives with expert care, proven treatments, lifestyle changes and support from an experienced team.
Heart Failure: The Penn Medicine Advantage
As one of the largest heart failure programs in the United States, Penn treats thousands of patients with all stages of heart failure.
When you choose our program, you can count on:
- Comprehensive treatment options: Your personalized treatment plan may include medications, surgery or mechanical support for your heart. But we also focus on lifestyle, sleep quality, nutrition, depression and other factors to make you feel better overall. Our goal is that you have a longer, better life.
- A team of experts: All of our heart failure physicians are certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in the specialties of Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology. Our nurses are also specially trained and certified in heart failure. Meet our heart failure team.
- Nationally recognized excellence: Several Penn Medicine Hospitals have earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Advanced Heart Failure. The American Heart Association has recognized Penn Medicine hospitals for excellence in implementing the Get With The Guidelines® Program to improve quality in heart failure care. And U.S. News & World Report has rated the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian for its high performance and excellent survival outcomes in heart failure.
- Care throughout your journey: At Penn, we care for people through the entire heart failure journey. We counsel those just learning about the condition and exploring possible genetic risks. We treat people living long-term with heart failure so they can continue to work and do things they enjoy. And we manage patients whose next step is heart transplantation or another surgery.
- A vast network of specialists: Successful heart failure treatment often requires multiple specialists. At Penn, you have access to any cardiology specialist you may need, including cardiac imaging specialists, genetic counselors, specialized surgeons and the heart transplant team. We also consult with specialists across Penn Medicine to help manage all your medical issues. We talk with these specialists regularly and coordinate care to make it seamless for you.
- Extensive education: Our expert heart failure doctors and nurses will help you understand heart failure and all of your options so you can take charge of your health.
- Cutting-edge options: Our heart failure specialists are also researchers seeking new ways to treat heart failure through clinical trials. Our involvement in research gives patients access to treatment options that are not widely available.
Understanding Heart Failure
Heart failure happens when the heart can no longer pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. When your body doesn’t get enough blood, it also doesn’t get enough oxygen and nutrients. Heart failure can make you feel very tired and short of breath, and it can make your legs and ankles swell.
Heart failure can be classified as diastolic or systolic:
- Diastolic heart failure, also called heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF): In diastolic heart failure, the left ventricle can’t relax normally. The result is that the heart can’t fill with blood between beats.
- Systolic heart failure, also called heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF): In systolic heart failure, the left ventricle can’t contract (squeeze) normally. The result is that heart doesn’t pump with enough force, reducing how much blood gets into circulation.
Heart failure is a serious, long-term condition. It is usually caused by another health issue. Examples include a previous heart attack, high blood pressure, heart muscle disease, diabetes and cancer treatments. Learn more about heart failure.
Getting Help for Heart Failure at Penn Medicine
Depending on the stage of heart failure, treatment may include a combination of lifestyle modifications, medications, devices and surgery. Sometimes our team can reverse heart failure by treating the underlying cause, such as repairing a leaky valve.
In other cases, medications alone can improve heart function. Penn offers all the latest heart failure treatment options, including some that are not available at other hospitals.
Our heart failure team works to understand your individual lifestyle and needs. Then we work with you to create an effective treatment plan tailored to your goals.
Read more about medications to treat heart failure and surgical and medical device options for patients with heart failure.
Medical Support for Heart Failure
Penn’s heart failure team is committed to supporting you through your diagnosis and beyond. We help you make lifestyle changes that get you feeling better and our team monitors you closely to detect problems earlier. Learn more about living with heart failure.