Cardiac Conditions and Diagnoses

Heart Failure

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart does not pump efficiently enough to deliver adequate amounts of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. There are two types of heart failure:
Systolic heart failure occurs when the heart does not squeeze as well as it should due to a weakened heart muscle.
Diastolic heart failure occurs when the heart squeezes well, but cannot properly fill with blood because the muscle has thickened and lost its ability to relax.

With either type of heart failure, blood can “back up” into parts of your body such as your lungs, hands, abdomen, legs and feet (congestive heart failure). Symptoms of heart failure may include:
• Shortness of breath with little exertion
• Feeling weak or tired after little activity or exertion
• Difficulty sleeping due to breathing problems
• A new or different cough, especially while lying flat
• A swollen or tender abdomen
• Loss of appetite
• Increased urination at night
• Swelling of the feet or legs

Learn about treatment options for Heart Failure.

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. Coronary artery disease results from atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries) , which can cause a decrease in blood flow to the heart muscle. When a coronary artery suddenly becomes blocked and blood flow to an area of heart muscle stops, it is called a heart attack. A heart attack can damage heart muscle and cause that area of the heart not to pump. Common symptoms of coronary artery disease include shortness of breath and angina (pain or a feeling of increased pressure in the chest).

Learn about treatment options for Coronary Artery Disease or watch a short informational video.

Coronary Atherosclerosis

Coronary atherosclerosis is a progressive condition in which plaque (fatty deposits, cholesterol and other substances) builds up in the lining of the coronary arteries and hardens. As the vessel wall thickens, the artery narrows and reduces the flow of blood to the heart muscle. In addition, blood clots can also form on the surface of the plaque, further narrowing the artery or closing it completely, causing a heart attack or stroke.

Learn about treatment options for Coronary Atherosclerosis.

Valvular Heart Disease

Valves control the flow of blood into, through and out of the heart. In valve disease, the valve may narrow (stenosis), which can reduce blood flow, or leak (regurgitation), which can allow blood to flow backward though the valve. Common causes of valve disease include congenital heart conditions (present from birth), rheumatic fever (often associated with untreated strep throat or scarlet fever), the formation of calcium deposits around the valve, atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries) and endocarditis (inflammation of the lining inside the heart). Symptoms vary depending on which valve is affected, but common symptoms include:

• Weakness or chest pain (often increasing with activity)
• Palpitations (rapid, noticeable heart beats)
• Shortness of breath
• Fatigue
• Swelling of the feet or ankles
• Fainting

Learn about treatment options for Valvular Heart Disease.

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

The aorta is the artery that carries oxygen-rich blood away from the heart and on to other arteries that distribute it throughout the body. A thoracic aortic aneurysm occurs when a “balloon” forms in a weakened area of the aorta wall within the chest cavity. The weakened vessel wall is often caused by atherosclerosis. Thoracic aneurysm may occur in three parts of the thoracic aorta: the ascending aorta, the descending aorta or the aortic arch. A minor thoracic aortic aneurysm may have little effect on an individual, but can also be life-threatening and fatal if it bursts and causes severe internal bleeding. Symptoms of thoracic aortic aneurysm may include:
• Shortness of breath:
• Heart failure:
• Difficulty swallowing:
• Upper-chest and back pain:
• A dull pain near the breastbone or upper back

Learn about treatment options for Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm.

Thoracic Aortic Dissection

The aorta is the artery that carries oxygen-rich blood away from the heart and on to other arteries that distribute it throughout the body. Aortic dissection is a split the begins in the inner lining of the artery wall. Pumping blood is forced through this opening, where it builds up in the vessel wall and eventually can rupture the outer lining of the artery. The tear can expand in length back toward the heart (proximal aortic dissection) or, more often, away from the heart (distal aortic dissection). Aortic dissection is most often associated with long-term high blood pressure, but other factors can increase risk, including aortic aneurysm, congenital (present from birth) aortic valve conditions and narrowing (coarctation) or expansion (dilation) of the vessel. Common symptoms of acute (sudden onset) aortic dissection may include abrupt, severe or “tearing” chest pain, sometimes accompanied by cold perspiration.

Learn about treatment options for Thoracic Aortic Dissection.

Marfan Syndrome

Marfan syndrome is a genetic (inherited) disorder in which connective tissue is not stiff enough to support certain structures throughout the body, including artery walls and heart valves. Marfan syndrome often affects the aorta, causing it to stretch (especially during exertion). This stretching (dilation) can lead to aortic dissection or aortic aneurysm.

Heart valves in people with Marfan syndrome may not be stiff enough to keep blood from flowing backward (regurgitation). Regurgitation can cause the heart to work harder in order to function properly. The aortic and mitral valves are most commonly affected. Over time, valve regurgitation can lead to enlargement of the heart. Symptoms of valve regurgitation may include fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain (angina).

Marfan syndrome also increases the risk for mitral valve prolapse, a condition in which the mitral valve does not close properly and swings back into the left atrium. Mitral valve prolapse can also cause regurgitation.

Learn about treatment options for Cardiac Conditions associated with Marfan Syndrome.

Coronary artery bypass surgery patient education

Over a half million people each year in the US have coronary artery bypass surgery. The Open Clinic is a patient education site on coronary artery bypass surgery and will help to prepare yourself or your family member for surgery. Included in the site is useful information about what to know before coronary artery bypass surgery, what happens during surgery and what to expect after surgery.