Heart transplants are reserved for patients with severe heart failure. A brief summary of some causes of heart failure follows. To learn more about a specific condition, click on the associated link. Patients who are too ill to qualify for a heart transplant may be eligible to receive a cardiac assist device, either as a support until they can receive a transplant, or as a destination therapy.
Congenital Heart Disease refers to disorders of the heart that are present at birth and that can affect adult patients in many ways. This term encompasses a range of cardiac defects, including atrial septal defect (miscommunication between the right and left atrium), ventricular septal defect (a hole in the muscle which separates the right and left ventricles), and pulmonary stenosis (a narrowing of the valve between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery).
Cardiomyopathy or heart muscle disease affects approximately 500,000 new patients per year in the United States. This group of disorders directly damages the muscle, impairing its ability to pump blood to other parts of the body. There are two major categories of cardiomyopathy: primary cardiomyopathy, defined as changes in the structure or function of the heart muscle that cannot be attributed to a specific cause, and secondary, which is associated with disorders of the heart or other organs.
Congestive Heart Failure occurs when the heart is unable to maintain adequate circulation of blood in the tissues of the body or to pump out the venous blood returned to it. This weakening of the heart prevents it from circulating a sufficient quantity of oxygen to the body's tissues. Common symptoms associated with heart failure are fatigue, shortness of breath, joint swelling and weight gain.
Coronary Artery Disease is the number-one killer of men and women in the United States. Also known as coronary heart disease, this disorder involves the progressive narrowing of the arteries that nourish the heart muscle. Often this disease is asymptomatic, but if one or more of these arteries become severely narrowed angina may develop during exercise, stress, or other times when the heart muscle is not getting enough blood.
Valvular Disease in the heart is caused by a number of conditions including congenital defects, such as rheumatic fever, or rheumatic heart disease. In heart valve disease, problems arise when a valve fails to close properly (mitral valve prolapse) or open properly (valvular stenosis). In either case, the heart has to work harder to pump enough blood to the body, eventually leading to heart muscle damage. Congestive heart failure, syncope (fainting), and arrhythmias are common signs of valve disease.