Advanced Heart Failure Program | MedStar Health

Comprehensive care for the sickest of the sick

More serious cases of heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, call for special treatment. Our Advanced Heart Failure Program is known for its innovation in heart failure treatments, alleviating symptoms and adding quality years to the lives of patients across the spectrum of the disease.

Our doctors implanted the first HeartWare left ventricular assist device (LVAD) in the country and performed the first heart transplant in the District of Columbia. We continue to improve on these procedures while aggressively pursuing even more effective therapies. Our doctors often design, lead, and take part in clinical trials, giving our patients early access to emerging, promising therapies, such as inotropes. These are strong medications designed to treat advanced heart failure by changing the force of the heart’s contractions. Sending patients home on these medications is only done at select programs like ours.

At the core of our program is our team of more than 75 professionals, unrivaled in the mid-Atlantic region for our scope of services, quality of care, and outcomes. The team includes not only heart doctors and surgeons but also nurses, nutritionists, pharmacists, financial counselors, and social workers as part of our patient support program. We’re also one of the first advanced heart failure programs to integrate palliative care along every step of treatment for a personalized, holistic team approach that provides ongoing support for patients and their families.

International pioneers in ventricular assist devices

We are an international leader in developing and perfecting ventricular assist devices (VADs). These mechanical circulatory assist devices help pump blood from the ventricles to the rest of the body. We have been involved in virtually every important new VAD development since the inception of the device.

One of the most common types of VAD is the left ventricular assist device (LVAD). Our doctors have been performing LVAD procedures since 1988, and we were among the first four hospitals in the world to perform this surgery.

Ventricular assist devices can be used until a patient’s heart becomes strong enough to pump on its own, while waiting for a heart transplant or if the patient is not a good candidate for a heart transplant. Our program is among the nation’s busiest VAD sites, giving our surgeons unmatched experience.

National leaders in heart transplants

Our doctors performed the first heart transplant in the region in 1987, and our program has since performed more than 250 of these life-saving surgeries. We are one of five programs nationwide researching noninvasive methods to assess patients for the potential of heart transplant rejection.

A patient’s transplant team may include cardiothoracic surgeons, advanced heart failure cardiologists, cardiac intensivists, transplant coordinators, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, physical therapists, nutritionists, or other dedicated staff members with transplant expertise.

Patient Resources

Resources for the best care, improved quality of life

Patients with advanced heart failure have complex medical, social and emotional needs. Our team of diverse specialists helps enhance your quality of life while living with advanced heart failure. We offer:

  • Individualized support: We provide the resources you need at the time you need them, from crisis management to physical therapy.

  • Family support: Advanced heart failure can affect your spouse, children, family and caregivers. We offer support groups and education for family members and caregivers so they can take care of themselves and give you the support you need.

  • Education: We understand you want to know everything you can about your condition. Our patient support team will answer all your questions and provide the information you need to live well.

  • Symptom management: Our team of expert clinicians will help you manage uncomfortable symptoms such as pain and nausea.

Your support team will work with you and your doctors to help you cope with this complex condition. The team may include:

  • Social workers: Our social workers specialize in working with advanced heart failure patients. They can help you access community resources, support groups and more.

  • Nutritionists: Diet plays a key role in managing heart failure. You can work with a nutrition services professional to make healthy eating changes.

  • Exercise physiologists: Cardiac rehabilitation can be an important step in managing heart failure. Our exercise physiologists will work with you to incorporate physical activity into your daily life within the limits of your condition.

  • Financial counselor: Our dedicated financial counselor will help you explore all the insurance and funding options available for your treatment, particularly if you are under consideration for a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) or heart transplant.

Our providers

Cardiologist taking EKG test of senior patient

Expert cardiology care

Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our cardiologists.

Additional information

patient care

Advanced heart failure patient support

Our unique patient support program for advanced heart failure patients offers the resources you need to optimize your medical care and improve your quality of life.

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Victoria Washington (right) was active in her job and her church, but advanced heart failure made it increasingly hard for her to even walk much less do all the things she enjoyed. Her cardiologist recommended a VAD—a ventricular assist device—that is implanted to take over the pumping action of a failing heart. Her support team included cardiologists, social workers, palliative care, and VAD coordinator nurses, one of whom was Laura Manley (left). Today, the VAD makes it possible for Ms. Washington to continue working, and best of all, return to sing in her church choir.

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