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Heart Failure

Heart failure is an umbrella term that describes many different types and causes of disease. It does not mean the heart has stopped working – it means that the heart muscle has become weakened or stiff, leaving it unable to efficiently pump blood through the body. Reasons can include prior heart attacks, familial diseases, a viral illness, and countless other causes.

Heart Failure Symptoms and Disease States

With heart failure, you may not have any symptoms or they may vary from mild to severe and include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased fatigue or tiredness
  • Swelling, or edema, of the legs, feet or abdomen
  • Cough and/or lung congestion
  • Fast, irregular heartbeats
  • Inability to lie flat when in bed due to breathing difficulties

Conditions that may lead to heart failure

If you have heart failure, chances are you have (or had) one or more of the conditions listed below. Some of these can be present without your knowing it. Typically, these conditions cause the "wear and tear" that leads to heart failure. Having more than one of these factors dramatically increases your risk.

Coronary artery disease: When cholesterol and fatty deposits build up in the heart's arteries, less blood can reach the heart muscle. This buildup is known as atherosclerosis. The result may be chest pain (angina) or, if blood flow becomes totally obstructed, a heart attack. Coronary artery disease can also contribute to having high blood pressure, which may lead to heart failure over time.

High blood pressure (hypertension): Uncontrolled HBP is a major risk factor for developing heart failure. When pressure in the blood vessels is too high, the heart must pump harder than normal to keep the blood circulating. This takes a toll on the heart, and over time the chambers get larger and weaker. For those at risk of developing heart failure, your doctor might prescribe medication to get your blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg.

Abnormal heart valves: Heart valve problems can result from disease, infection (endocarditis) or a defect present at birth. When the valves don't open or close completely during each heartbeat, the heart muscle has to pump harder to keep the blood moving. If the workload becomes too great, heart failure results.

Heart muscle disease (dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, infiltrative disease) or inflammation (myocarditis): Any damage to the heart muscle – whether because of drug or alcohol use, viral infections or unknown reasons – increases the risk of heart failure. The infiltrative cardiomyopathies (amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, and hemochromatosis) are acquired and inherited diseases characterized by the deposition of abnormal biological substances within the heart that can lead to cardiac dysfunction, arrhythmias or heart failure. Cardiomyopathies can cause the heart muscle to become larger or more rigid, which can make it harder for the heart to pump blood properly and maintain a normal rhythm.

Heart defects present at birth (congenital heart disease): If the heart and its chambers don't form correctly, the healthy parts have to work harder to compensate.

Why Choose the Summa Health Heart Failure Program

Summa Health heart failure experts are specially trained to assess, treat and provide acute and long-term care for people with any stage of heart failure. To optimize outcomes, we provide a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary team approach led by heart failure physicians. This team collaborates on all stages of care, from diagnosis to personalized treatment planning through follow-up and chronic disease management. We surround you with expertise and compassion and partner with you on your care.

State-of-the-Art Heart Failure Treatments

While there is no cure for heart failure, there are ways to work with your doctor to control your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Depending on your condition, your individualized treatment care plan may include:

  • Lifestyle changes and medical management
    We work closely with surgical weight loss, medical nutrition therapy, and cardiac rehab to emphasize nutritional support and aggressively manage diabetes and other co-morbid conditions that often worsen outcomes in heart failure patients.
  • Diagnostic and monitoring technologies
    CardioMEMs are sensors that monitor the pressure in your pulmonary artery. You take a daily home reading using the Patient Electronics System, which sends the information to your doctor. After analyzing the information, your doctor may make medication changes to help treat your heart failure.
  • Ventricular assist devices (VADs)
    A VAD is a mechanical device that helps treat advanced heart failure, a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
  • BarostimTM
    The Barostim is used to improve symptoms in patients with advanced heart failure, particularly those who are not suited for treatment with other heart failure devices.
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
    Used in emergencies, ECMO is an in-hospital mode of life support for patients with acute respiratory or cardiac failure. It replaces the actions of either the lungs or both the heart and the lungs, supplying oxygenated blood to the body.
  • Experimental devices and medications
    Our team routinely enrolls in many of the most cutting-edge clinical trials available in the country. These devices and medications often require careful screening and monitoring but can provide potentially lifesaving opportunities before available on the market.

Specialty Groups

  • Cardio-Oncology Program
    The Cardio-Oncology Program at Summa is a collaboration between Summa Health Heart and Vascular Institute and Summa Health Cancer Institute dedicated to screening, monitoring and treating any heart problems before, during or after cancer therapy.
  • Cardiac Amyloid Program
    Summa providers who specialize in the treatment and management of amyloidosis work together as a team to provide the highest level of patient care. The initial evaluation will be done by one of our amyloid specialists in cardiology or cancer care, with possible additional involvement of specialists in neurology, nephrology, hematology/oncology, and primary care.
  • LVAD Program
    The Summa Health LVAD Program offers lifesaving mechanical circulatory support to patients suffering from end-stage heart failure. An LVAD is an electric-powered pump that is implanted within a patient’s chest. Its purpose is to help the heart work better and improve the flow of blood, oxygen, and vital nutrients throughout the body.
  • Cardio-Pulmonary Exercise Laboratory
    The primary purpose of cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) is to carefully assess how your lungs, heart, blood vessels and muscles perform during an exercise challenge in order to provide important information about overall health status and prognosis for specific diseases.

Comprehensive Support Services for Heart Failure

Summa Health also offers the personal support you need to navigate your care journey with confidence. We help you and your loved ones understand the condition, treatment and ways to provide support. Our wrap-around supportive services include:

  • Patient education programs and support groups
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
    Cardiac rehabilitation is an exercise, education and lifestyle program that’s developed by clinical staff and tailored to your individual needs. We offer an innovative facility and qualified health professionals, including registered nurses and exercise physiologists, to provide onsite guidance.
  • Nutrition support
    The heart failure team work closely with cardiac certified nutritionists to help manage numerous different diet restrictions, manage complex disease states and optimize nutritional status. They also offer counseling and guidance for weight loss strategies.

Recent studies show that patients who participate in a structured heart failure program – like the one here at Summa Health – have fewer complications and hospitalizations than those patients who don't. Through our program, you will learn how to take a more active role in minimizing your risks for complications and hospitalizations. The program also is designed to improve your health by partnering with your primary care physician to offer extra support and ongoing monitoring of your heart failure status.

Program Recognition

Summa Health System at Akron Campus is accredited by the American College of Cardiology Accreditation Services, Heart Failure Base Accreditation since 2017. The award recognizes our commitment to ensuring that heart failure patients receive the best treatments according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines founded in the latest scientific evidence. The goal is speeding recovery and reducing hospital readmission for patients with heart failure. 

Find a Heart Failure Specialist

If you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure, talk to your doctor about getting a referral to see a Summa Health Heart Failure Cardiologist. To learn more about our heart failure program, schedule an appointment for an evaluation at 330.253.8195.


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.