What is Heart Failure?

When your heart is failing, it can no longer pump enough blood through your body. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the body.

Without enough blood flow, your body doesn’t get enough of what it needs to stay alive. Parts of the body – such as the kidneys or liver – start dying. People cannot continue living when major organs such as the kidneys or the liver stop working, unless they receive therapy.

As the heart gets weaker, it pumps less and less well. That’s when you’re  in end-stage heart failure. This means that your heart has arrived at the end of its life and will become weaker and weaker over time. Heart failure is not any one thing; rather, it is a group of worrisome signs. Most people with this stage of heart failure have shortness of breath, either at rest or with light exertion, and they can feel fatigued.

“My heart was not getting better and it will never get better. The medications were not working anymore.”

LVAD Patient

How do You Get Heart Failure?

Coronary Artery Disease
Sometimes end-stage heart failure is the result of blocked arteries.
Hypertensive Heart Disease
Sometimes high blood pressure, which puts a lot of stress on the heart, leads to heart failure.
Other Causes
Sometimes people are born with weak or incorrectly formed hearts. Viruses and pregnancy can cause heart failure, though this doesn’t happen often.
People arrive at end-stage heart failure in different ways.
The cause of your heart failure can affect your treatment. It will also affect what will happen if you get an LVAD.

How Does Heart Failure Feel?

If you have heart failure, you may be experiencing:

- shortness of breath
- swollen legs  
- feeling weak
- feeling lightheaded or confused

You may be taking medicines that treat these symptoms and make you feel better. Your medicine may make you feel better, but you may not be getting better. Even if your medicine makes you feel OK, you may still be in end-stage heart failure. You still need to make a decision about what to do next.

Options for Treating End-Stage Heart Failure

You have three main options for addressing end-stage heart failure. They are:
- Getting an LVAD - a Left Ventricular Assist Device
- Getting a Transplant
- Getting Palliative Care

Your doctor may recommend that you get an LVAD, which helps pump blood through the body. Use this website to learn more about the LVAD and LVAD surgery, and to make an informed decision about whether an LVAD is right for you.
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Learn More

LVAD By the Numbers

Visit the LVAD by the Numbers page to get the most up-to-date information on LVADs. The information there includes:

How many people have LVADs
Survival statistics for LVAD patients
Percentages of LVAD patients designated Bridge to Transplant and Destination Therapy
Percentage of Bridge to Transplant patients who receive a heart transplant within the first year after their surgery.  
“I was going normally as usual after I found out about my heart condition. But recently I started progressively getting worse and got put in the hospital.”
Kenneth, LVAD Patient
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