Treatment Options

Heart Failure and Recovery Program

Options for Treating Heart Failure

For the experts of the Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, managing heart failure and striving toward recovery is achieved through a multidisciplinary approach that includes evaluation and treatment. Treatment always starts with a full patient assessment, which often includes different types of testing to determine the nature and extent of the heart failure. A key diagnostic tool in diagnosing heart failure is advanced cardiac MRI, which gives extensive images showing the heart and how well it is functioning.

Depending on the severity, pediatric heart failure is typically managed through medical, procedural or surgical interventions, which could include heart transplantation.

The full range of treatments offered by the Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital provides a level of care that is customized to the patient’s need. Treatment may include:

Cardiothoracic Surgery and Transplant
Sometimes the only solution for cases of pediatric heart failure is a heart transplant or other surgical intervention. The Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital has the top pediatric cardiovascular surgery program in the country with the lowest overall four-year surgical mortality rate among all medium- and high-volume programs, with a rate of 1.1%, according to the latest data compiled by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (2008-2012).

Medical Management
Diet, exercise and the use of any of a number of medications to control heart rhythm, heart contraction and blood pressure may be utilized to help manage young patients with heart failure.

Catheter-based Therapies
Children’s modern, technologically advanced Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory conducts morethan 750 catheterization procedures each year, including more than 150 minimally invasive interventional procedures such as balloon valvuloplasties, balloon angioplasties, placement of intravascular stents, coil embolization, closure of holes in the heart and radio frequency perforation of occluded cardiac valves.

Mechanical Circulatory Support
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, also known as ECMO, is the use of a modified heart-lung machine to provide air exchange for prolonged support of patients with severe but potentially reversible respiratory or cardiac failure. The Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital is also a national leader in the use of ventricular assist devices, or VADs, which can take over the pumping action of the heart, providing lifesaving support prior to transplantation. With increasing frequency, Children’s is finding that VADs can often provide relief for the heart, allowing it to recover and thus avoiding heart surgery.

Heart Rhythm Management
Heart failure issues involving irregular rhythm may sometimes be treated with pacemakers through Children’s comprehensive Arrhythmia and Rhythm Disturbances program. Other cases may involve electrophysiology study, leading to ablation of the conductive pathways creating extra rapid heartbeats.