Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is significantly weakened so it’s unable to forcefully pump blood out to the body. The most common causes of heart failure are:

It’s a progressive disease that can lead to kidney disease, diabetes and other problems. That’s why it is so important for you to understand your condition and what changes you’ll need to make to live well with heart failure. Yes, you can live well with heart failure.

Management of heart failure

Heart failure is not curable, but it is controllable. It generally starts with medical management:

  • Medications
  • Low-salt/sodium diet
  • Limit and monitor fluid intake
  • Moderate activity
  • Manage blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and weight
  • Restrict/eliminate alcohol, tobacco and second-hand smoke
  • See your doctor regularly to monitor your condition
  • Take your medications as directed

Other options for monitoring and managing heart failure include:

CardioMEMS® at-home monitoring

Gundersen is the first and only medical center in our area to offer CardioMEMS™ to some patients with heart failure. In a clinical study, CardioMEMS reduced hospital readmissions by 37 percent and mortality by 57 percent.

A dime-sized, wireless sensor is implanted in your pulmonary artery using a minimally invasive procedure. Daily readings taken at home are transmitted to Gundersen for review. CardioMEMS spots an early indication of worsening heart failure, even before symptoms appear, so changes can be made quickly to avoid serious illness or hospitalization.

CardioMEMS is easy to use:

  • There’s no special technology needed at home.
  • The monitor is portable so you can travel.
  • The implanted sensor does not need batteries, leads or replacement parts.
  • Your primary care provider can access information so ongoing care can be delivered close to home.
  • You can still have any type of imaging done; there are no restrictions.

Cardiac rehabilitation

Cardiac rehab can positively impact your health and physical performance. Using a medically supervised, customized exercise program, cardiac rehab at Gundersen can:
Significantly reduce future cardiovascular events
Slow the progression and reduce the severity of coronary artery disease
Increase strength and exercise tolerance
Improve heart function, overall health and quality of life

Through cardiac rehab you’ll also receive education and counseling on heart-healthy living such as:

  • Nutrition and good eating habits
  • Risk factor modification such as weight, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol
  • Ways to improve emotional well-being and stress management
  • Medications and guidance to follow prescribed medical therapies
  • Tools to continue a healthy lifestyle after graduation from cardiac rehab

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has determined that evidence is sufficient to expand coverage for cardiac rehabilitation services to qualified patients with stable, chronic heart failure (check with your doctor to see if you qualify).

If you have heart failure, talk with your doctor about possible benefits from cardiac rehab or contact Gundersen Exercise Physiology for more information at (608) 775-2955.

Biventricular pacing

To treat the delay in heart ventricle contractions that occur in some people with advanced heart failure, a biventricular pacemaker helps the ventricles beat in a more balanced way, resulting in increased blood flow. The battery-powered device is surgically implanted under the skin with leads or wires positioned in the heart. To learn more, talk with your cardiologist or give us a call.

Ventricular assist device

If you have advanced heart failure and have exhausted medical therapies, you may be a candidate for an implanted ventricular assist device (VAD). A VAD can be either a bridge to a heart transplant or, if not eligible for transplant, used as a long-term support. Eight to 12 weeks after VAD implant surgery, you should be able to resume most activities. Because circulation has been restored, you can expect to have more energy and fewer heart failure symptoms.

For additional information about heart failure and treatment options talk with your primary care doctor, cardiologist or give us a call.

Why Choose Gundersen?

  • Experience - Gundersen has the largest and most comprehensive heart program in the Tri-State Region, providing a full range of exceptional heart care.
  • Heart Failure Clinic - Gundersen has the area’s only dedicated Heart Failure Clinic. It brings together specialists to diagnose, evaluate and provide ongoing management of patients with heart failure.
  • Cardiac rehab and exercise programs - Cardiac rehab includes medically supervised activity, ongoing monitoring, and education about risk factor modification and a heart-healthy lifestyle. With this combination of exercise, education and socialization, we help you achieve and maintain your highest level of function, health and independence.
  • Outreach and telemedicine services - Gundersen heart specialists provide cardiology services closer to home for many patients via telemedicine and outreach in a dozen different locations throughout our service area.
  • Top heart program recognition - Gundersen’s heart program has received national recognition and awards often ranking us among the best in the nation for heart care.
  • Gundersen is a recipient of the Healthgrades Coronary Intervention Excellence Award. Gundersen received a five-star rating from Healthgrades for Treatment of Heart Attack. Gundersen received a five-star rating from Healthgrades for Pacemaker Procedures.
  • Research and clinical trials - Dedicated to continually improving care, our heart specialists participate in national and international research studies. We also participate in many clinical trials giving you access to cutting-edge treatments.
Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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