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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.

  • What is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)?
  • An ICD is a device that uses electrical pulses or shocks to help patients with an irregular heartbeat maintain normal heart rhythm. Upon detecting an abnormal heart rhythm, ICDs send shocks to the heart to help restore normal rhythm and prevent sudden cardiac death.
  • How can pets promote better health?
  • Pet ownership has been shown to reduce stress levels and promote physical activity among owners, which helps improve heart health. However, more research is needed to better understand whether owning a pet, especially a dog, directly reduces risk for heart disease.
  • Does owning a pet improve heart health?
  • Many studies suggest that pet ownership promotes heart health, like by increasing physical activity, lowering blood pressure, and reducing risk for heart disease. However, more research is needed to better understand the association between pet ownership and cardiovascular risk.
  • When is CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) performed?

  • CPR is most often performed when someone has drowned or suffers sudden cardiac arrest, and the heart has stopped beating. CPR is performed to restore circulation and help get oxygen-rich blood to the brain.
  • How is CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) performed?
  • CPR consists of chest compressions and/or rescue breathing to help restore circulation when the heart suddenly stops beating. For more information about CPR, check out our CPR basics.
  • How is gestational diabetes treated?
  • In most cases, women developing diabetes during pregnancy can control their blood sugar levels through lifestyle changes, like eating right and staying active. However, some women require insulin therapy to control their condition.
  • What is the goal of atrial fibrillation (AFib) treatment?
  • The goals of AFib treatment include controlling a normal heart rate, reducing risk of complications, minimizing symptoms and improving quality of life.
  • What is standard treatment for heart failure?
  • Heart failure is usually treated with a combination of medications, such as ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, digoxin, beta blockers, diuretics and aldosterone antagonists. In some cases, patients may need to undergo surgery or procedures to treat underlying problems causing heart failure.
  • Who else can benefit from cardiac rehab?
  • In addition to people with coronary artery disease, those recovering from a heart attack, heart failure, or a heart surgery or procedure (for example, angioplasty and stenting, valve replacement or a pacemaker or defibrillator) are offen referred and can benefit from this type of program.
  • How long does a cardiac rehab program last?
  • Many are 12-week programs, but it’s highly individual. Some people need less time; others might need to continue rehab for months, even years. Talk with your health care team about what is best for you.
  • When should I get a flu shot and why do I need one every year?
  • It is important to get vaccinated before the start of the flu season, which may begin as early as October and usually peaks in January. It takes about 2 weeks after getting the vaccine for your body to build up antibodies to the virus. You need to get a flu shot every year in order to be protected because the virus changes from season to season. Each year, researchers formulate a new vaccine based on the three strains of influenza virus they expect to be most common in the upcoming months.

  • Do all patients with heart attack symptoms receive an ECG during the ambulance ride to the hospital
  • Not all patients receive an ECG during an ambulance ride. If you are exhibiting heart attack symptoms, you should ask the paramedics to perform an ECG on you in the ambulance, if they do not ask you. This is especially important for those with atypical symptoms who are in fact suffering from a heart attack.
  • Should I get a flu shot?
  • Beginning in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a recommendation that everyone get vaccinated against the flu virus. The flu shot (injected by needle, usually in arm) is safe for most adults and children older than 6 months, including people with heart disease. It is especially important for groups at high risk for flu-related complications. These include:

    • Pregnant women
    • Children younger than age 5, especially children under than 2 years old
    • People age 50 and older
    • People of any age with chronic medical conditions
    • People who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities
    • People who live with or care for people at high risk of flu complications. This includes:
      • Health care workers
      • People who live in households with people at high risk
      • Caregivers of children younger than 6 month old

    Another type of the flu vaccine is given as a nasal spray. This vaccine is recommended only for healthy individuals between the ages of 2 and 49 years old who are not pregnant. The nasal spray is not advised for people with heart disease or other chronic conditions because it uses a live form of the virus. You should always talk to your doctor before getting vaccinated.

  • How is broken heart syndrome (Takotsubo cardiomyopathy) treated?
  • Broken heart syndrome (Takotsubo cardiomyopathy) can be treated in a variety of ways, depending on the severity and cause of the condition. Once other causes are ruled out, patients may be treated with medication and most make a full recovery within one or two months.
  • What if I have tried to learn more about my health but still have trouble understanding?
  • Patients who have trouble understanding their health conditions should ask for help from their health care team, whether it's a doctor, nurse or counselor. Health care providers can help point patients to a variety of resources that can cater to individual needs.
  • What is anticoagulation therapy?

  • Anticoagulant medications are blood thinners that help prevent blood clots from forming around the replacement valve, which can cause heart attack and stroke. Examples of such drugs include warfarin, heparin and aspirin.
  • What is electrical cardioversion?
  • Direct current cardioversion, referred to as electrical cardioversion, is the use of a small electrical shock to help restore the heart’s normal rhythm. This procedure is very different from the emergency heart shocking procedure often seen on TV, as it is a lower-energy shock that is planned and given under controlled conditions.
  • What is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)?

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.  A CPAP device consists of a face mask that covers your mouth and nose, and a small machine that blows air through the mask into your throat. The air gently presses on the walls of your airways so they do not collapse when your muscles relax during sleep. Most people have a period of adjustment when first using a CPAP machine, but usually feel much better over time.
  • What is a catheter ablation?

  • Catheter ablation is a procedure that involves inserting a catheter (small tube) into an artery near the groin, threading it up to the heart and normalizing heart tissue with electrical signals. Ablation has proven 60-75% effective in treating patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.
  • What is an automated external defibrillator (AED) and how does it work?

  • An AED is a portable device that automatically diagnoses life threatening cardiac conditions, such as sudden cardiac arrest, and can treat individuals through defibrillation. By applying electrical shocks to the heart, AEDs help restore regular heart rhythm and allow for blood and oxygen flow to the heart, brain and body.
  • What is percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)?

  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (often referred to as balloon angioplasty or simply angioplasty) is often recommended for patients diagnosed with diseased arteries of the heart (coronary arteries) or for patients suffering a heart attack. Percutaneous coronary intervention includes a variety of procedures developed to compress fat and cholesterol build-up in the arteries, known as plaque deposits, to help increase the size of narrowed or blocked arteries and improve blood and oxygen flow to the heart.
  • What is insomnia?

  • Insomnia is defined as a subjective feeling of having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, or having a feeling of nonrestorative sleep. Individuals having difficulty falling or staying asleep and/or feeling exhausted in the morning despite ample sleep should discuss these concerns with a doctor.
  • What is it like to have a radiofrequency ablation procedure?
  • The procedure will be done in the hospital, in the electrophysiology (EP) laboratory. You’ll be awake during the procedure but you’ll be given a sedative to help you relax. Your heart and blood pressure will be monitored the entire time.

    While you lay flat on a table in the EP lab, your cardiologist will insert a needle into a vein in your groin (or possibly your arm or neck), after first numbing the area. Then slender tubes called catheters will be threaded through your veins into your heart. The catheters have special electrodes on their tips that can detect abnormal electrical impulses in your heart and send out pulses of radiofrequency energy to destroy problem tissue and leave scar tissue in its place.

    The radiofrequency ablation procedure takes several hours, depending on how many areas of the heart are generating abnormal electrical impulses. Your cardiologist will carefully create lines of scar tissue around each of them. You may feel some discomfort when the catheter is sending out radiofrequency energy. Be sure to let your doctor know if you feel severe pain or shortness of breath.

    After the procedure, you’ll need to lie to flat on a bed for several hours while pressure is applied to the puncture site in your groin. This helps a blood clot to form. During this time, it’s important not to move your legs, sit up or walk around. Depending on how you’re doing, your doctor will decide whether you should go home or stay in the hospital overnight. You may feel some abnormal heart beats after the procedure, but these should go way once your heart has healed.
  • What is Multaq?

  • Multaq is the brand name for dronedarone, a drug made by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis. It was initially approved in July 2009 to reduce the risk of cardiovascular hospitalization in patients with non-permanent atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter with a recent arrhythmic episode and other cardiovascular risk factors.
  • What are the most common complications of PCI?
  • The most common complication from PCI is blood clotting, despite efforts to reduce this risk through the use of blood-thinning medications. Risk of heart attack is about 1–2% in patients undergoing PCI. Although most PCI procedures are successful, about 1–2% of procedures may fail and require emergency coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

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