Cardiac Emergencies

Treatment Options for Patients with Heart Failure

One of the leading reasons why people seek care in an emergency room is heart failure, a chronic condition that can trigger symptoms such as shortness of breath, fluid retention, rapid or irregular heart beats, and more.

In fact, heart failure is one of the top causes for hospitalizations in the U.S. today, according to Bruce T. Liang, M.D., director of the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health. At UConn, patients with heart failure receive state-of-the-art care to precisely diagnose and treat specific problems. In addition, they can participate in some of today’s most promising clinical research, including studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “Not only do we offer world-class diagnostic tests such as an MRI of the heart and treatments such as medications and implantable devices in our electrophysiology lab, but we are also pursuing new discoveries about the causes and optimal treatments for heart failure,” Dr. Liang adds.

New Approaches

The Calhoun Cardiology Center is the only cardiology program in the region that is participating in NIH studies measuring the efficacy of new medications for both systolic and diastolic heart failure. Systolic failure occurs if the left ventricle loses its ability to contract normally and the heart can’t pump with enough force to push sufficient blood into circulation. This is often referred to as a weakening of the heart muscle and can be the result of a heart attack, heart disease, or damage to the heart muscle. Diastolic failure occurs if the left ventricle loses its ability to relax normally because the muscle has become stiff and the heart can’t properly fill with blood during the resting period between each beat. This is often caused by untreated hypertension and appears to be more common in women than men.

Along with the NIH studies, patients at UConn can also participate in research Dr. Liang is leading to help predict both the likelihood of developing heart failure and the likelihood of responding well to treatments. Participation in this continuing clinical research merely involves providing a blood sample. “Our premise is that a simple blood test can indicate whether a patient’s heart is failing due to the presence of certain markers, or protein fragments. To date, the data are giving us confidence that this approach is potentially useful in identifying information about heart failure,” Dr. Liang says, noting that findings have been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and presented before national meetings. “The beauty of the blood test is that it is simple, quick, and non-invasive,” he says. “Our goal is to find a way to identify patients at risk at an earlier stage and to tailor individualized, long-term treatments for each patient.”

An Experienced Team

Another important factor about heart failure treatment at the Calhoun Cardiology Center is its experienced team. Patients benefit from the work of a diverse group of specialists, many of whom have collaborated on clinical care and research for more than 20 years, including cardiologist Jason Ryan, M.D., M.P.H., who leads the heart failure program, Mary Beth Barry, A.P.R.N., and Laura Kearney, R.N., as well as other cardiologists, cardiac imaging specialists, hypertension specialists, and heart rhythm specialists.

“As a team, we evaluate each patient’s unique case and make decisions about treatment options. This gives each patient the benefit of many perspectives, from well-trained, experienced specialists,” Dr. Liang adds. With more than 5.3 million Americans living with heart failure today and increases predicted for years to come, Dr. Liang encourages men and women to learn about the disease, its causes, and preventive strategies. “And when it comes time to choose a provider, take a close look at our comprehensive program and award-winning cardiac care team,” he adds.

To learn more about the Calhoun Cardiology Center, visit health.uconn.edu/cardiology. To make an appointment or learn more about clinical research opportunities, call 860-679-3343.