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Dilated Heart Failure Can Necessitate a Transplant

Male patient shaking the hand of a physician Dilated heart failure isn¡¯t necessarily a condition in and of itself, but rather a term used to describe when dilated cardiomyopathy leads to cardiac failure. Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition characterized by the gradual thinning of the muscles in the ventricles, or the lower pumping chambers of the heart. When these muscles become weaker over time, the heart cannot properly pump blood to the body, and the progression of the condition can eventually lead to heart failure.

Dilated cardiomyopathy and potential heart failure may occur due to any of the following causes:

  • Pregnancy (although in these cases, the dilated cardiomyopathy is generally reversible)
  • Use of drugs like amphetamines and cocaine
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Exposure to environmental toxins
  • Thyroid disease
  • Fast, irregular heartbeat (also known as tachycardia)
  • Viral and parasitic infections, including Chagas disease
  • Previous heart attacks that caused heart damage

As the walls of the ventricles become thinner, some people may experience symptoms related to the deterioration of heart function, whereas others may not. Some individuals don¡¯t show symptoms until the signs of dilated heart failure occur due to the drop in oxygenated blood flowing throughout the body. Such signs include shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue. People with this condition may also experience enlarging of the veins in the neck, abdomen, legs, or feet.

Treatment for dilated cardiomyopathy varies depending on the progression of the condition. In most cases, physicians will recommend lifestyle changes that can improve the overall health of the heart, including quitting smoking, adhering to a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Medications can also be used to address symptoms and prevent abnormal heartbeats, although some patients require surgery. Surgeons may install pacemakers or defibrillators, repair faulty valves, or bypass damaged areas of the heart to improve blood flow to the heart. In certain severe cases, a heart transplant may be necessary.

At Tampa General Hospital, we have been performing heart transplants for adults with serious conditions like dilated cardiomyopathy (and related heart failure) since 1985. Our heart transplant program is one of the busiest in Florida, completing an average of 52 transplants a year since 2001. We are also recognized as a leader in the field of mechanical circulatory support (MCS) and ventricular assist device (VAD) implantation, which may be used as a bridge to transplant, bridge to recovery, or destination therapy.

Contact Tampa General Hospital for more information about our heart transplant program and to learn about the criteria patients with dilated heart failure must meet to be eligible for a transplant. Call 1-800-505-7769 (press 1 for the heart transplant program and ask for the referral coordinator), or call the coordinator directly at (813) 844-4088.