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Heart Failure & Transplant

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One in five people will develop heart failure, a life-threatening condition where the heart is unable to pump enough blood around the body. There are two types of heart failure: 

  • Systolic mean the heart muscle is weakened. This usually happens when the left ventricle is enlarged and can't contract the way it should. As a result, it can't pump with enough force to push blood through your body.
  • Diastolic mean the heart muscle is stiff and unable to relax or contract properly. As a result, it can't fill up with enough blood, which reduces the amount of blood pumped through the body.

If your heart issues don't respond to treatment with medications, devices or other surgeries, you may be a candidate for a heart transplant. In a heart transplant, the diseased heart is replaced with a healthy, working heart from a donor.

Our heart failure team works with you and your family to treat and monitor your condition. From lifestyle changes like diet and exercise to medications, heart implants and transplants, we personalize a care plan that best meets your needs.

Heart Failure: What It Is & How We Treat It

Very few hospitals offer all levels of care for heart failure at one site. Learn about this and other distinguishing factors of heart failure treatment at UVA. View heart failure transcript.

Nationally Recognized Heart Care

Our heart failure program won two national awards from the American Heart Association for the quality and effectiveness of our treatment guidelines. We’ve reduced recovery time and readmission rates for our heart failure patients by implementing important steps that include:

  • Device therapy (pacemakers, ICDs, LVAD and ECMO)
  • Follow-up appointments within several days of hospital discharge
  • Flu and pneumonia vaccinations
  • Patient education materials about heart failure management and readmission rates

At UVA, we’ve received the highest possible rating for 14 common conditions and procedures by U.S. News & World Report, including our heart failure care.

Heart Failure Care Without the Hassle of Travel

If traveling to UVA is inconvenient, we'll work with healthcare providers near you to schedule routine care like lab work, sleep studies and echocardiograms closer to home.

If you have a device implant, we’ll work with our device team to make sure your appointments with the heart failure team and the device team are scheduled on one day.

And if you need to be admitted to the hospital, we have a special in-patient unit staffed with nurses with extra education in heart failure treatment.

Treating Heart Failure with Implanted Devices

Implantable Cardiac Defibrillators

Implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICD) are small, battery-powered devices that generate electrical impulses and perform biventricular pacing.

Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy

This treatment uses a special pacemaker that synchs the left and right ventricles of heart failure patients. This can be combined with an implantable cardiac defibrillator.

Mechanical-Assist Devices

  • An intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) increases cardiac output and blood flow.
  • Temporary assist devices are mechanical pumps that help the heart pump blood through the body. They allow the heart to stabilize while you and your care team decide what other treatment options are best. 
  • Ventricular assist devices (VADs) are permanent mechanical pumps that help the heart pump blood through the body.

LVADs are a therapy for end-stage heart failure and an alternative to heart transplant for some patients.

UVA is a Center for Destination VADs. Unlike other centers that can only use VADs while patients wait for a transplant, we can put one in for non-transplant patients. Older patients or those with other conditions that prevent them from being transplant recipients benefit from VADs that help extend their life.


CardioMEMS is a small, wireless pressure sensor that provides non-invasive hemodynamic pressure readings. Your doctor accesses the readings at our Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Center to closely monitor you and provide early treatment to prevent hospital readmissions and improve your quality of life.