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Heart Failure, Assist Devices and Transplantation

US News and World Report logo for high performance in heart failure

The Advanced Heart Failure and Transplantation program at UK HealthCare offers a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of heart disease. Our program combines highly trained and renowned physicians and state-of-the-art technology. We bring together a team of experts from all areas of cardiology who focus on the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure.

We know the term “heart failure” can be frightening, so our doctors and staff work together to create a treatment program that best suits each individual patient’s needs – from the proper medication, lifestyle modification, ventricular assist support devices or, if necessary, a heart transplant.

Our goal is to provide every patient with exceptionally compassionate care in the safest and most appropriate manner possible based on the best evidence and the latest technological advances.

Make an appointment using our online request form or call the numbers listed with our locations below.

  • Locations


    Gill Heart & Vascular Institute

    UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital - Pavilion G

    Gill Heart & Vascular Institute
    800 Rose St.
    Lexington KY 40536
    Fax 859-257-8699

    Medical Plaza East

    UK Transplant & Specialty Clinic

    Medical Plaza East
    Suite 150
    3 Audubon Plaza Drive
    Louisville KY 40217

    Services available: Heart, Lung, Liver, Kidney, Pancreas, Living Donor

  • Additional Providers

    Advanced Heart Failure Manager

    • Julia Akhtarekhavari

    Heart Transplant Coordinators

    • Donna Dennis
    • Cayla Hardesty
    • Heather Ross

    VAD/ECMO Coordinators

    • Amanda Hart
    • Miriam Ross
    • Thomas Tribble
  • About Heart Failure

    Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, is a condition where the heart cannot pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the needs of the body's other organs. A failing heart keeps pumping, but not as efficiently as a healthy heart. Usually, the heart's diminished capacity to pump reflects a progressive, underlying condition. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump out all of the blood that enters it, causing blood to collect in the vessels and fluid to accumulate in body tissues. Nearly 5 million Americans are living with heart failure, and 400,000 to 700,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

    Common risk factors for heart failure are:

    • Advancing age
    • African-American heritage
    • Poorly controlled high blood pressure
    • Diabetes
    • Family history of congestive heart failure
    • History of alcohol abuse

    Common signs and symptoms of heart failure

    The most common signs of congestive heart failure are shortness of breath, fatigue, and swollen ankles or legs. Another symptom is weight gain due to the buildup of fluid in the body.   

    What causes heart failure?

    Heart failure is usually the result of another condition that makes the heart weak or stiff.  Common causes include:

    • Coronary artery disease or previous heart attack (myocardial infarction)
    • Disease of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy)
    • Heart valve disorder
    • Severe high blood pressure (hypertension)

    How is heart failure diagnosed?

    In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for heart failure may include any, or a combination, of the following:

    • Chest X-ray.  A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
    • Echocardiogram (also called echo).  A non-invasive test that uses sound waves to evaluate the motion of the heart's chambers and valves. The echo sound waves create an image on the monitor as ultrasound equipment is passed over the heart.
    • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).  A test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias) and can sometimes detect heart muscle damage.
  • Treatment Options

    Heart failure is a chronic disease, but it can be managed successfully with medications and lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise. Several medications are available that have been shown to improve symptoms and outcomes in heart failure.

    If heart failure is due to severe high blood pressure (hypertension), proper treatment of this can improve symptoms. In a few instances, heart failure can be cured through surgical methods. For example, if heart failure is due to a leaky or narrowed heart valve, surgical repair or replacement of the valve can fix the problem. Devices such as defibrillators and cardiac resynchronization therapy can also help improve symptoms.

    Routine medical follow-up is recommended in patients with heart failure. This allows the medical provider to adjust medication as necessary and monitor the patient’s condition. If heart failure worsens to the point that routine daily activities are difficult to perform, advanced treatment options such as heart transplantation or placement of a ventricular assist device may be considered.  

    Remote Monitoring with Cardiomems Heart Failure System

    The sensor, a completely sealed capsule, is implanted into the pulmonary artery using minimally invasive techniques and is designed to last the lifetime of the patient.  (Images courtesy of St. Jude Medical Inc.)

    When the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands, blood pressure within the heart is elevated, which can lead to heart failure. Measuring pulmonary artery pressure is an early indicator that heart failure is getting worse. Directly measuring pressure through a right-heart catheterization is a standard-of-care practice for patients who have been hospitalized. However, since heart failure is a chronic disease, most days are spent outside the hospital.

    In recent years health professionals have found that self and in-clinic monitoring options, which are limited by poor sensitivity to detecting subtle heart failure changes, have resulted in increased admissions to the hospital. To help patients better monitor pulmonary artery pressure, cardiologists at the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute are the first in Kentucky to adopt a new diagnostic device, the  CardioMEMS™ Heart Failure System. 

    The CardioMEMS™ Heart Failure System uses a miniaturized, wireless monitoring sensor that is implanted in the pulmonary artery during a minimally invasive procedure. The system allows patients to transmit pulmonary artery pressure data from their homes to clinicians at the Gill Heart & Vascular Institute, allowing for personalized and proactive management to reduce the likelihood of hospitalization.

    Heart Transplantation

    The heart transplant program has been active since 1991, having performed over 400 transplants in the program’s history. The success of the heart transplant program is a result of close collaboration between the Gill Heart and Vascular Institute and the Transplant Center. For more information visit the transplant site.

    TAH: Total Artificial Heart

    The total artificial heart (TAH) is a mechanical device designed to replace the lower two chamber of the heart (ventricles) that pump blood to the lungs and then out to the body. To learn more, visit our TAH page.

    VAD: Ventricular Assist Device

    Joint Commission gold sealVentricular assist devices (VAD) or ventricular assist systems (VAS) is a surgically implanted pump that helps the weakened lower two chambers of the heart (ventricles) pump blood out to the body and lungs. The UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval™ for its VAD program by demonstrating compliance with The Joint Commission’s national standards for healthcare quality and safety in VAD care. This certification award recognizes UK’s dedication to maintaining state-of-the-art standards. Gill Heart & Vascular first received the Gold Seal in 2009 and has maintained certification since that time, most recently obtaining recertification in December 2017. For more information visit our VAD page.