Congestive heart failure treatment
The treatment of congestive heart failure is complex and involves an interaction among lifestyle modifications, medications, and in some cases, electric or mechanical devices to assist the heart.
Congestive heart failure lifestyle changes
The most important lifestyle changes recommended for people with CHF is the restriction of dietary sodium and fluid. Patients with CHF often have excess fluid and overconsumption of sodium and fluid only worsen this condition. Most doctors recommend that no more than 2 grams of sodium be consumed each day by those with CHF and fluid intake is typically restricted to about 2 quarts a day.
Congestive heart failure medications
A wide variety of medications are used in CHF with different treatment goals.
- ACE inhibitors are a class of drugs that are used in most people with CHF and they have been effectively shown to relieve symptoms and prolong survival.
- Beta blockers may improve function in some patients who are already taking ACE inhibitors.
- Digoxin, which stimulates contraction of the heart muscle, has been used for many years to manage CHF.
- Diuretics can be useful in controlling fluid levels and preventing swelling of the legs.
Other treatments for congestive heart failure
Heart transplantation is an appropriate treatment for some people with severe CHF. This is most often considered in people under age 70 who do not have significant disease of other organs. Mechanical assist devices, like ventricular assist devices, have also been developed to take over part of the heart's pump function. They are often used in critically ill people awaiting heart transplantation or they may be used for a longer time in older people who may not be good surgical candidates. A biventricular pacemaker is a device that can be implanted without the need for surgery to strengthen the coordination of ventricular contraction in some people with CHF.
Cardiac resynchronization therapy and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators are other devices that can benefit some patients.
Medically reviewed by Robert J. Bryg, MD; Board Certified Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Cardiovascular Disease
Dumitru, Ioana, et al. "Heart Failure." Medscape. 13 Jul 2013.