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Surgery for Heart Failure

Surgery is aimed at stopping further damage to the heart and improving the heart's function. Surgical procedures for heart failure treatment include:

heart bypass graft
Heart Valve Surgery

Reshape the mitral valve leaflets and provide support to the mitral valve with a ring

High risk conventional surgeries

Coronary artery bypass surgery

The most common surgery for heart failure treatment is bypass surgery. If a coronary artery becomes blocked, less oxygen-rich blood reaches the heart muscle. The heart muscle becomes "starved" for blood (ischemia) and is unable to pump normally; heart failure occurs. Your doctor will determine if your heart failure is caused by coronary artery disease and if you have blockages that can be "grafted" or bypassed. Although patients with heart failure are at an increased surgical risk, new strategies before, during and after surgery have decreased the risk and improved outcomes.

Valve surgery

As heart failure progresses, remodeling of the left ventricle causes the papillary muscles (which support the mitral valve leaflets) to stretch out of shape, causing the valve to leak. Mitral valve repair usually involves reshaping the leaflets and providing support to the mitral valve with a ring. Experience at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation has shown that repair of the mitral valve:

  • Preserves the natural anatomy of the heart
  • Improves cardiac function
  • Decreases symptoms
  • Improves survival
  • Decreases complications and risks

If the aortic valve leaks, aortic valve repair or replacement may be an option.

Implantable left ventricular assist device (LVAD)

Inside the LVAD

The LVAD is known as the "bridge to transplantation" for those whose medical therapy has failed and are hospitalized with end-stage systolic heart failure. This device helps your heart pump blood throughout your body. CCF is one of the few institutions worldwide who have access to all clinically available mechanical ventricular assist systems including the Heartmate, Novacor, Thoratec, and Abiomed devices, allowing us to choose the machine which will best suit an individual patient's clinical needs.

For selected individuals with severe, refractory heart failure, we can now offer the option of permanent LVAD therapy or "destination therapy."

Cleveland Clinic surgeons are participating in two randomized trials comparing permanent support with an implantable (Novacor) and a continuous flow (Debakey) pump to the Heartmate device.

Transplant Illustration

Heart transplant

When systolic heart failure is severe enough, a heart transplant may be suggested.

Heart (cardiac) transplant involves replacing a diseased heart or heart and lungs with a healthy donor organ or organs. The donor organ is completely removed from someone who has died, then kept cool in a special solution as it is transported. The disease heart is removed, leaving the back walls of the atria (heart's upper chambers). The hearts are sewn, atria to atria into the chest, the blood vessels are reconnected, and blood flows through the new heart into the body.