The term congestive heart failure (CHF) is a bit of a misnomer. If people hear that someone has CHF they assume the person may have had a heart attack, due to the use of the word failure. In reality, CHF simply means that the heart isn’t pumping blood effectively.
When the heart doesn’t pump the blood strongly enough, it can lead to many different problems: leg swelling, general fatigue, difficulty breathing, and inability to exercise. It also puts the person at risk for more serious cardiovascular events.
Dr. Smith may use cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) to improve the heart’s contractions and increase the heart’s pumping power.
What is CRT?
The goal of cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) is to improve the timing of the heart’s contractions. This can lead to the heart pumping more powerfully, which allows more blood to be pumped out to the body.
For CRT, Dr. Smith uses a biventricular pacemaker with two wires in the lower chambers of the heart, the right and left ventricles. This device delivers simultaneous electrical impulses to both lower heart chambers. These impulses cause the heart to beat in a more synchronized, efficient manner.
Some CRT patients are at a high risk for sudden cardiac death. In these patients a special CRT device can stop potentially life-threatening rapid heartbeats by delivering an electrical shock known as defibrillation. In these patients, the standard CRT device is combined with a defibrillator.
When is CRT right for a patient?
These are the candidates who can benefit from CRT:
- Moderate to severe congestive heart failure symptoms that are not responding to lifestyle changes
- A weakened and enlarged heart muscle
- A significant electrical delay in the lower pumping chambers
How successful is CRT?
Resynchronization devices improve the symptoms of around two thirds of patients having this treatment. This can enable CHF patients to incorporate more exercise into their regimens, and to enjoy a better overall quality of life.