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Treatments

Learn how heart conditions are treated and the benefits and possible risks that come along with each type of treatment.

  • How is cardiomyopathy treated?
  • Treatment depends on which major type of cardiomyopathy a patient has. However, goals of treatment are usually to minimize symptoms, reduce risk of complications and prevent the condition from worsening. Treatment options may include medication, surgery, and/or medical devices.

  • What is coronary artery bypass grafting?
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is a surgical procedure used to treat coronary artery disease, or the build-up of plaque in the heart’s arteries. During CABG, a healthy artery or vein is connected to a blocked artery in the heart to divert blood and improve blood flow.
  • Who needs coronary artery bypass grafting?
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is used to treat people with severe coronary artery disease. CABG is often recommended when other treatments like lifestyle changes and medications don’t work. CABG may also be recommended if there is significant blockage of the arteries that requires immediate treatment. Doctors can determine whether a patient with coronary artery disease is a candidate for CABG based on a physical exam and other tests.
  • What is telemedicine?
  • Telemedicine refers to the use of video cameras, smartphones, computers and other technology to provide virtual medical consultations. Telemedicine is often used to connect health care providers with specialists when they are not available on-site to provide prompt recommendations regarding medical treatments.
  • What is cardiac rehabilitation?
  • Cardiac rehabilitation (cardiac rehab) is a program designed to help patients recover from a heart event and build the foundation for a healthier future. Cardiac rehab typically involves an individualized exercise and lifestyle modification program, and provides a support system to help patients take control of risk factors, monitor progress, communicate with doctors, and adopt lifelong healthy behaviors. Services are provided by a team of nurses, exercise specialists, dieticians and other health care professionals led by a physician.  Cardiac rehab has been shown to improve both outcomes and better quality of life for patients after a heart event.

  • How is atherosclerosis treated?
  • Treatment for atherosclerosis may include lifestyle changes, medication and/or medical procedures, depending on the severity of plaque build-up in the arteries. Lifestyle changes like eating healthy, staying activequitting smoking and reducing stress can help reduce risk of complications from atherosclerosis. Certain medications like cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering drugs may also be prescribed to slow the progress of plaque build-up. If atherosclerosis is severe, certain procedures may also be recommended to open blocked or narrowed arteries.
  • What is a tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA)?
  • Tissue-type plasminogen activator or tPA is a treatment for ischemic stroke. During ischemic stroke, blood supply to the brain is blocked due to an obstruction within a blood vessel. Administering tPA by needle helps break down clots to restore normal blood flow. However, tPA is most effective when administered immediately upon diagnosis (within an hour of arrival to the hospital).
  • How is atrial fibrillation treated?
  • In general, the goals of atrial fibrillation treatment are to promote a regular heart rhythm or rate and prevent blood clots, which can cause stroke. However, treatment strategies depend on the unique needs of each patient. Treatment options may include antiarrhythmic medication, blood thinners, and a variety of procedures that can help control atrial fibrillation.
  • What types of heart valves are used for valve replacement?
  • There are two types of heart valves used for valve replacement—mechanical and biological valves. Mechanical valves are made of man-made, durable materials that last a very long time. Biological valves are made from heart tissue and don’t last quite as long as the durable, man-made valves. However, patients receiving mechanical valves often need to take blood thinners for the rest of their lives to prevent blood clots.
  • What is transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)?
  • TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure used to repair faulty aortic valves in patients with aortic stenosis. Although surgical valve replacement is considered standard treatment for patients with severe aortic stenosis, TAVR is typically reserved for patients considered too high-risk for traditional surgery.
  • How is venous thromboembolism treated?
  • Patients with a history of venous thromboembolism are often prescribed medication, such as blood thinners, to prevent a future clot. However, treatment depends on the unique needs of each patient.
  • How is atrial fibrillation treated?
  • Depending on the individual needs of each patient, treatment options for atrial fibrillation include medication and/or surgical or nonsurgical procedures. The goal of treatment is often to promote a normal heartbeat, address any underlying medical issues when possible, reduce risk for heart attack and stroke and improve quality of life.
  • What is complementary and alternative medicine?
  • Complementary and alternative medicine refers to using a non-mainstream approach either together or in place of conventional medicine. The difference between conventional and non-mainstream medicine is that mainstream medicine has met strict criteria to prove that the treatment is effective, whereas evidence is less clear regarding the efficacy of non-mainstream medicine.
  • What are the most common medications prescribed to prevent heart disease?
  • Cardiovascular medications are often prescribed to patients at increased risk for heart disease or with a history of heart events, like heart attack and stroke. The most common medications used to reduce cardiovascular risk include cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, blood-pressure lowering drugs and medications that help prevent blood clots, called antithrombotic agents. Depending on a patient’s medical history, they may take any combination of these drugs to prevent a future heart event.
  • How common are heart complications from non-cardiac surgery?
  • All surgery carries risk of complications, some of which can be serious. Although heart complications can be common, risk varies depending on the characteristics of each patient. Using risk calculators, doctors can determine whether a patient is low risk, with less than 1% chance of heart complications from surgery, or considered to have elevated risk for complications. Patients should always weigh the risks and benefits of surgery with their doctor before making treatment decisions.
  • How are congenital heart defects treated?
  • Treatment for a congenital heart defect depends on the type of defect, how severe it is, and the child’s age and overall health. Based on these factors, treatment may range from medicine to surgery and heart transplants, depending on disease severity. However, many patients with congenital heart defects don’t require treatment.
  • What are the different types of weight loss surgery?
  • The goal of weight loss surgery is to limit the amount of food that you can ingest and/or digest. The most common types of weight loss surgery include gastric bypass, gastric banding and sleeve gastrectomy. Some types of weight loss procedures are less invasive than others and which type of surgery is best depends on each patient’s specific situation.
  • Is weight loss surgery safe?
  • As with all medical procedures, weight loss surgery carries certain risks and for some patients, doesn't always work as well as they might have hoped. If you’re considering weight loss surgery, it’s important to discuss all the pros and cons of treatment with your doctor.
  • What is a clinical trial?
  • Clinical trials are research studies on human subjects that help answer specific questions about the safety and efficacy of treatments. Clinical trials are strictly regulated to protect the health and safety of study participants.
  • What are the different phases in clinical trials?
  • Clinical trials have three distinct phases, each of which has different goals. Phase I and II clinical trials are used to demonstrate that a new treatment is safe for a small group of people and determine how well it works. Phase III clinical trials compare the new treatment with standard treatments in a large group of people. After passing a phase III trial, researchers can then submit an application for FDA approval.
  • Who needs an ICD?
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators are used to help prevent sudden cardiac death, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. Most patients with ICDs have a history of sudden cardiac arrest or have been diagnosed with a rapid heartbeat, called ventricular tachycardia. However, ICDs may also be considered for patients at high risk for sudden cardiac death.
  • What are quality improvement initiatives in health care?
  • Quality improvement initiatives are designed to improve the quality of care that patients receive. The goals of such programs are to ensure the highest possible standard of care and ultimately improve outcomes for patients.
  • What is cardiac resynchronization therapy?
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) is often used in patients with moderate to severe heart failure who have arrhythmia, the most common type of irregular heartbeat. Patients undergoing CRT have a small pacemaker implanted in their chest, which monitors the heart rate and corrects any abnormal heart rhythms. CRT has been shown to alleviate heart failure symptoms, including shortness of breath, and improve outcomes.
  • Why are some clinical trials ended early
  • In some cases, clinical trials may be terminated due to safety concerns, a lack of efficacy, or both. If a clinical trial is testing a new drug and the drug either increases risk of negative outcomes or doesn’t demonstrate the intended benefit, the study will be ended early.
  • How is aortic stenosis treated?
  • Treatment for aortic stenosis varies depending on how severe the condition is. If aortic stenosis is mild and causes no symptoms, patients may only be monitored over time. However, patients with more severe aortic stenosis often require medication, surgery or minimally-invasive procedures to repair or replace the valve and relieve symptoms.

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