Treating heart failure

What you can expect as a heart failure patient

Even though heart failure is a serious condition, it can be effectively managed. We understand suspected or diagnosed heart failure can be daunting, that’s why we offer you greater support with specialist team-based care that is designed to give you improved outcomes and better care, faster.

Chapter 01

Heart failure symptoms

What is heart failure and what are the symptoms?

A healthy heart is able to contract and relax to pump enough blood around the body. We can measure a healthy heart by the percentage of blood that leaves your heart each time it contracts; this is called the ejection fraction. A normal ejection fraction is between 50-70%.

Heart failure can occur when the heart muscle is either:

1. Enlarged and or weakened (Systolic Heart Failure or Heart Failure Reduced Ejection Fraction)

2. Thickened and stiff (Diastolic Heart Failure or Heart Failure Preserved Ejection Fraction)

What are the causes and symptoms of heart failure?

There are many causes for the heart muscle not working properly including:

  • Previous heart attack
  • History of high blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • High levels of alcohol consumption
  • Diabetes
  • Infections (viruses)
  • Previous chemotherapy treatment
  • Genetic causes

Symptoms of heart failure may include:

  • Shortness of breath when walking, at rest, or when lying down
  • Swollen feet or legs
  • Palpitations or rapid heartbeat
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Sudden weight increase
  • A frequent, long lasting cough

Chest pains – if severe please call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. This is an emergency.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about your symptoms and how you can check and manage them.

Chapter 02

Diagnosis

In order to understand how your heart is functioning, you may be referred for one or more of the following tests. It is important to complete these before your appointment with the GenesisCare Heart Failure Management Clinic, to give our team all the information needed to best support you.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram (ECG) is used to assess the electrical activity in your heart. It gives your team information regarding the rate and rhythm of your heart and can help identify abnormal rhythms, (arrhythmias). It is non-invasive, painless and provides information very quickly.

  • Small sensor pads called electrodes will be attached to your chest, arms and legs
  • The electrodes have wires which are attached to an electrocardiogram machine that will record and then print out cardiac electrical activity
  • Within minutes, the test is complete and your team will review the results

For more information click here

Echocardiogram (Echo)

Echocardiography is an ultrasound and serves as an easy way for your cardiologist to assess your heart muscle, valves and large blood vessels. The test may take up to 45 minutes and you shouldn’t experience any pain or discomfort during it.

  • You will lie on the examination bed
  • To get the images of your heart, the technician will place a thick gel on your chest
  • The technician will then place a transducer directly over the left side of your chest over your heart
  • The technician will press firmly as they move the transducer and will ask you to hold your breath for a short time
  • The results will be sent directly to your cardiologist

For more information click here

Pathology

Your doctor may send you for blood tests to assess your heart function.

Pathology or blood tests are an important way to help your team monitor how your medications and heart function are affecting other aspects of your overall health. For instance, some tablets can affect your kidney function, and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium in the blood stream. Initially testing may be required frequently as your medications are increased to help strengthen your heart and reduce your symptoms. Once stable, monitoring will not need to be as often.

Chapter 03

Treatment Options

Once you’ve been diagnosed

Your GenesisCare doctor will provide you with a personalised management plan to support you with an holistic approach to your heart failure treatment. Though medication is the primary treatment, there are a number of other factors you will need to be aware of to ensure the best results.

Your treatment plan will include:

  • Names of your team of doctors and nurses
  • Daily fluid allowance
  • Your target daily weight
  • Initial medications
  • When to increase or decrease your diuretics
  • Salt restriction and nutrition advice
  • Strategies for daily exercise
  • How to recognise signs and symptoms of heart failure concerns
  • When to contact your team for help
  • Contact details for your heart failure nurse

In most cases, treatment for heart failure involves medication. Medicines do not cure heart failure, but they can help you feel better, live longer, stay out of hospital and have more energy so you can enjoy life. Your doctor may prescribe you multiple medications for your heart failure. It is very important that you take all your heart failure medicines, as some are designed to work together, and follow your doctor and nurse’s instructions carefully.

No matter what treatment plan you’re recommended, we have evidence-based treatment protocols to provide the best possible life outcomes.

Why GenesisCare

Team-based care

We support you with a team of specialist cardiac doctors and nurses who will work together with your General Practitioner to design and deliver your treatment in the way that best suits your needs. We treat the person, not just the condition.

Greater support

Specialist cardiac nurses provide you with additional communication and support both during and between clinic visits to complement the medical expertise of your cardiologist. We understand that you need information, fast, so in between your appointments, your nurse team will send you relevant heart failure information online and request health status updates from you to more efficiently manage your care. You can even contact your nurse team directly by phone (*if you’re experiencing severe chest pain, please call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance).

Your team is there to provide you with the assistance, information and reassurance you need, whenever you need it.

Faster access

Access care when and where you need it through our broad specialist network, cardiac assessment services and numerous clinic locations across Australia. Our clinics offer affordable in house cardiac assessments with minimal wait times to both private and public patients.

Designing better care

We’re always investing in the latest proven treatment technologies, equipment and techniques. Our outcomes are measured and help to inform the work that we do. We also challenge ourselves every day to find new and better ways to treat illness and disease and deliver better outcomes for our patients. View our clinical trials here.

Chapter 04

Coming to GenesisCare

At GenesisCare you’ll always have a personalised treatment plan specific to your condition and circumstance.

Your doctor refers you to GenesisCare

Your doctor will send a referral to our GenesisCare team. This can be completed by your General Practitioner, another specialist, or made if you are in hospital.

Once you’ve been referred

Once we have received your referral, you will be contacted by a member of our patient support team who will confirm your first clinic appointment date and time. Before your first appointment, expect to be contacted again by our team via a letter or a phone call to advise you of your next steps and any specific information you may need to bring on the day.

Before your appointment

It’s important for our team to fully understand your health status. Make a list of your current medications and if you have any previous test result or letters, we ask that you gather them and bring these to your first appointment.

Tips:

  • It’s a great idea to bring a support person to your appointments if you can. They may be able to assist you to make, communicate and achieve treatment decisions
  • Prepare a list of questions for our team before your appointment. You can bring these in a notebook so you can record any notes or further questions

Your first visit with the team

When you arrive, you may be asked to complete patient intake forms by our team. Once these are complete, our team will guide you to an examination room to perform an ECG. You will then meet with your nurse and cardiologist, who will work with you to create your personalised heart failure management plan and assist you with any information you may need.

During your treatment

During your visits to our Heart Failure Management Clinics, our team will provide you with the knowledge and skills to help reduce your symptoms and improve your heart health. Our online tools will provide you with additional information and education that you can access when and where it suits you. Clinic nurses are also available between your appointments for any additional questions or concerns you may have.

The fact that they were all collaborating about what was my best outcome, you could feel the level of support, you could feel the level of interest, the level of care." Alan
Chapter 05

Living well

Although it can be a challenge living with a chronic condition like heart failure, many people can learn to manage their symptoms (as directed by their health care team) and enjoy a full life. The organisations listed to the left can offer further support services if you or someone you know is living with heart failure.