Advanced Heart Failure Symptoms & Treatment | MedStar Health

Expert care when heart failure progresses

Advanced heart failure is a form of heart failure that has progressed to the most serious stage. Heart failure gets worse over time. There are four main heart failure stages, based on a patient’s risks and symptoms. Patients who have advanced heart failure are in the most severe stage of the disease.

Though this condition is serious, there is hope for patients with this disease. Our Advanced Heart Failure Program team provides early diagnosis and comprehensive treatment. No other team in the mid-Atlantic region matches our quality of care or patient outcomes.

In 1988, MedStar Washington Hospital Center became one of the first four hospitals to implant a ventricular assist device to help a weakened heart beat better, and our heart transplant team was the first in our region in 1987.


The symptoms of advanced heart failure are similar to those of heart failure in an earlier stage. These include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia

  • Swelling in the legs, feet, or abdomen
  • Weight loss without diet or exercise changes

These symptoms may be worse or better from day to day or even at different times of the day. The main difference from less-advanced heart failure is that these symptoms may appear with ordinary activity or even during rest.


Angiogram (Angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.

Carotid Duplex Ultrasound

Carotid duplex ultrasound uses Doppler and traditional ultrasound to assess blood flow in the arteries that supply blood to your brain.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Heart Biopsy

In this biopsy, your doctor will remove small samples of your heart muscle tissue to monitor function or diagnose a problem.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Stress Tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.


We offer a wide spectrum of treatments for patients with advanced heart failure. These include ventricular assist devices, as well as heart transplants. Along the way, patients have access to palliative care to relieve symptoms and stress.

Heart Failure Treatment

Treatments for heart failure such as medications, surgery, and mechanical devices vary based on the cause and severity of your condition.

Heart Transplants

A transplant replaces a diseased, failing heart with a healthier heart from a donor.

Inotropic Therapy

Inotropic therapy is an IV medication that can relieve symptoms and abnormal heart rhythms.

Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

A ventricular assist device (VAD), also known as a mechanical circulatory support device, helps the heart pump blood more effectively during end-stage heart failure.

Additional information

Advanced Heart Failure Program

Partner with leaders in the field to manage and treat your heart failure and help you maximize your quality of life.


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