About

Our Cardiovascular Center offers a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary approach to the treatment of heart disease with highly trained and renowned physicians and state-of-the-art technology. We bring together a team of experts from all areas of cardiology to focus their attention on the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure.

We know the term “heart failure” can be frightening. Our staff works together with each patient individually to create a treatment that best suits your needs—from medication, lifestyle modification, circulatory support devices, or, if necessary, transplants. Our mission is to ensure better health and quality of life for our patients.

Heart Transplant Program

Heart Failure

What is heart failure?

Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the needs of the body's other organs. The heart keeps pumping, but not as efficiently as a healthy heart. Usually, the heart's diminished capacity to pump reflects a progressive, underlying condition.

What causes heart failure?

Heart failure may result from any or all of the following:

  • Heart valve disease caused by past rheumatic fever or other infections

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

  • Active infections of the heart valves and/or heart muscle (for example, endocarditis or myocarditis)

  • Previous heart attack(s) (myocardial infarction). Scar tissue from prior damage may interfere with the heart muscle's ability to pump normally.

  • Coronary artery disease. Narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.

  • Cardiomyopathy or another primary disease of the heart muscle

  • Congenital heart disease or defects (present at birth)

  • Cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats)

  • Chronic lung disease and pulmonary embolism

  • Certain medications

  • Excessive sodium (salt) intake

  • Anemia and excessive blood loss

  • Complications of diabetes

How does heart failure affect the body?

Heart failure interferes with the kidney's normal function of eliminating excess sodium and waste products from the body. In congestive heart failure, the body retains more fluid, resulting in swelling of the ankles and legs. Fluid also collects in the lungs, which can cause profound shortness of breath.

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

The following are the most common symptoms of heart failure. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath during rest, exercise, or while lying flat

  • Weight gain

  • Visible swelling of the legs and ankles (due to a buildup of fluid), and, occasionally, swelling of the abdomen

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Loss of appetite, nausea, and abdominal pain

  • Persistent cough that can cause blood-tinged sputum

The severity of the condition and symptoms depends on how much of the heart's pumping capacity has been compromised.

The symptoms of heart failure may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.

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 noninvasive 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 an ultrasound transducer 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.

  • BNP testing. B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) is a hormone released from the ventricles in response to increased wall tension (stress) that occurs with heart failure. BNP levels rise as wall stress increases. BNP levels are useful in the rapid evaluation of heart failure. In general, the higher the BNP levels, the worse the heart failure.

Treatment for heart failure

Specific treatment for heart failure will be determined by your health care provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

The cause of the heart failure will dictate the treatment protocol established. If the heart failure is caused by a valve disorder, then surgery may be performed. If the heart failure is caused by a disease, such as anemia, then the underlying disease will be treated. Although there is no cure for heart failure due to damaged heart muscle, many forms of treatment have been used to treat symptoms very effectively.

The goal of treatment is to improve a person's quality of life by making the appropriate lifestyle changes and implementing drug therapy.

Treatment of heart failure may include:

  • Controlling risk factors:

    • Quitting smoking

    • Losing weight (if overweight) and increasing moderate exercise

    • Restrict salt and fat from the diet

    • Avoiding alcohol

    • Proper rest

    • Controlling blood sugar if diabetic

    • Controlling blood pressure

    • Limiting fluids

  • Medication, such as:

    • Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. This medication decreases the pressure inside the blood vessels and reduces the resistance against which the heart pumps.

    • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB). This is alternative medication for reducing workload on the heart if ACE inhibitors are not tolerated.

    • Diuretics. These reduce the amount of fluid in the body.

    • Vasodilators. These dilate the blood vessels and reduce workload on the heart.

    • Digitalis. This medication helps the heart beat stronger with a more regular rhythm. 

    • Antiarrhythmia medications. These help maintain normal heart rhythm and help prevent sudden cardiac death.

    • Beta-blockers. These reduce the heart's tendency to beat faster and reduce workload by blocking specific receptors on heart cells.

    • Aldosterone blockers. Medication that blocks the effects of the hormone aldosterone which causes sodium and water retention.

  • Biventricular pacing/cardiac resynchronization therapy. A new type of pacemaker that paces both pumping chambers of the heart simultaneously to coordinate contractions and to improve the heart's function. Some heart failure patients are candidates for this therapy.

  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator. A device similar to a pacemaker that senses when the heart is beating too fast and delivers an electrical shock to convert the fast rhythm to a normal rhythm.

  • Heart transplantation

  • Ventricular assist devices (VADs). These are mechanical devices used to take over the pumping function for one or both of the heart's ventricles, or pumping chambers. A VAD may be necessary when heart failure progresses to the point that medications and other treatments are no longer effective. 

Cardiologists

Feras M. Bader, M.D.

Feras Bader, MD, MS, FACC is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Cardiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. In 1992 he received a full scholarship and began his undergraduate and medical training at the University of Jordan School of Medicine in Amman, Jordan; which he completed in 1998. He went... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiology, Echocardiography, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 585-3693
University Hospital (801) 585-5122

Stavros G. Drakos, M.D., Ph.D.

Stavros G. Drakos, MD/PhD is the Medical Director of the Cardiac Mechanical Support Program, Associate Professor of Cardiology, University of Utah and an Investigator at the Molecular Medicine Program, Eccles Institute of Human Genetics. He received his M.D. degree from the Medical School of the National Univers... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiac Mechanical Support, Cardiology, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 585-3693
University Hospital (801) 585-5122

James C. Fang, M.D.

James Chen-tson Fang, M.D., is the Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine and Director of the Cardiovascular Service Line at University of Utah Health Care.
Dr. Fang, who specializes in treatment of patients with heart failur... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiology, General Cardiology, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant

Locations:

Redstone Health Center (801) 585-7676
South Jordan Health Center (801) 585-7676
University Hospital (801) 585-7676

Edward Michael Gilbert, M.D.

Edward Michael Gilbert, MD is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Dr. Gilbert received his medical degree from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. He completed his training in Internal Medicine and in Critical Care at Wayne State University. He completed his Cardiovascular Di... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiology, Echocardiography, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant

Locations:

Billings Clinic (800) 332-7156
Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (208) 367-4278
University Hospital (801) 585-3693
University Hospital (801) 585-5122
Veterans Administration Medical Center (801) 584-1235

Kimberly M. Molina, M.D.

Kimberly Molina, MD is a member of the division of Pediatric Cardiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine and Primary Children’s Medical Center. Dr. Molina is a general cardiologist who sees children with all forms of heart disease, and specializes in seeing patients with heart failure and cardiomyop... Read More

Specialties:

Echocardiography, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant, Pediatric Cardiology

Locations:

Pediatric Cardiology (801) 662-5400

Jose Nativi-Nicolau, M.D.

Dr. Nativi-Nicolau is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah. He received his medical degree from University of Panama. Dr. Nativi-Nicolau completed his Internal Medicine Residency at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He accomplished his Cardiology Fell... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiology, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant

Locations:

Billings Clinic (800) 332-7156
Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (208) 367-4278
University Hospital (801) 585-5122
University Hospital (801) 585-3693
Veterans Administration Medical Center (801) 584-1235

Josef Stehlik, M.D., M.P.H.

Josef Stehlik, MD, MPH is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Dr. Stehlik has received his medical degree from Charles University in Prague and Masters in Public Health degree from Harvard School of Public Health. He completed his training in Internal Medicine and in ... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiac Mechanical Support, Cardiology, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant

Locations:

Billings Clinic (800) 332-7156
Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (208) 367-4278
University Hospital (801) 585-5122
University Hospital (801) 585-3693
Veterans Administration Medical Center (801) 584-1235

David A. Bull, M.D.

David Bull, MD, is a member of the Thoracic Oncology Program, a joint effort between Huntsman Cancer Institute and the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics. The program was developed to offer consultation, diagnosis, and treatment for all chest cancers. Bull is a professor in the Department of Surgery, Divis... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiac Mechanical Support, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Coronary Revascularization, Esophageal Surgery, Heart Transplant, Lung Cancer, Lung Transplant, Valvular Heart Disease

Locations:

South Jordan Health Center (801) 213-4500
University Hospital (801) 581-5311

Aaron W. Eckhauser, M.D., M.S.C.I

I joined the University of Utah, Division of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery in 2012. I am board certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. My clinical interests are focused on caring for all patients, from neonates to adults, with congenital heart defects. I have ... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiac Mechanical Support, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Heart Transplant, Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Stephen McKellar, M.D., M.Sc.

Dr. McKellar is a native of Salt Lake City and received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Utah and his Doctor of Medicine from the George Washington University School of Medicine. He completed his General Surgical and Cardiothoracic Surgical training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in a com... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiac Mechanical Support, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Coronary Revascularization, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant, Lung Transplant, Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery, Minimally Invasive Lung & Esophageal Surgery, Valvular Heart Disease

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Kimberly M. Molina, M.D.

Kimberly Molina, MD is a member of the division of Pediatric Cardiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine and Primary Children’s Medical Center. Dr. Molina is a general cardiologist who sees children with all forms of heart disease, and specializes in seeing patients with heart failure and cardiomyop... Read More

Specialties:

Echocardiography, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant, Pediatric Cardiology

Locations:

Pediatric Cardiology (801) 662-5400

Amit N. Patel, M.D.

Amit Patel, MD, MS, is an associate professor in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine and Director of Clinical Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering at the University of Utah. His clinical interests include heart surgery for coronary disease, valve repair and... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiothoracic Surgery, Heart Failure, Heart Stem Cell Therapy, Heart Transplant, Lung Transplant, Valvular Heart Disease

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 587-7946

Craig H. Selzman, M.D.

Dr. Craig Selzman is an Associate Professor of Surgery in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Utah who specializes in the care of patients requiring heart surgery. He earned his undergraduate degree at Amherst College and medical degree at Baylor College of Medicine. He received his Gener... Read More

Specialties:

Adult Congenital Heart Disease, Cardiac Mechanical Support, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Coronary Revascularization, Heart Failure, Heart Stem Cell Therapy, Heart Transplant, Lung Transplant, Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery, Surgical Ventricular Restoration, Valvular Heart Disease

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 587-9348

Specialties:

Cardiothoracic Surgery, Nurse Practitioner

Locations:

Eccles Primary Children’s Outpatient Services Building (801) 662-1000
University Hospital (801) 581-0434

Lynette Evans, APRN, B.S.N.

Lynette Evans, APRN, FNP-BC is an ANCC board certified family nurse practitioner working primarily with heart failure and transplant patients at the University of Utah Medical Center. In addition to managing complications related to heart failure, she is involved in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of ot... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiology, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 585-5122
University Hospital (801) 585-3693

Jacob Fetzer, PA-C

Jake Fetzer PA-C, MPAS is a board certified Physician Assistant working primarily with heart failure and transplant patients at the University of Utah Medical Center. In addition to managing complications related to heart failure, he is involved in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of other cardiac pathologie... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiology, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant, Physician Assistant

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 585-5122
University Hospital (801) 585-3693

Specialties:

Cardiothoracic Surgery, Physician Assistant

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Terri M. Hancock, DNP, ACNP-BC

Terri Hancock, DNP, ACNP-BC, is a board certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner with the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Utah. As a Cardiothoracic Surgery Nurse Practitioner, Terri is interested in evaluating and improving the overall quality of care and clinical efficiency of cardiac and... Read More

Specialties:

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Cardiothoracic Surgery

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-5311

Specialties:

Cardiothoracic Surgery, Physician Assistant

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 231-2200

Specialties:

Cardiothoracic Surgery

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Specialties:

Cardiology, Family Nurse Practitioner, General Cardiology, Heart Failure, Interventional Cardiology, Valvular Heart Disease

Locations:

Uintah Basin Medical Center (801) 585-7676
University Hospital (801) 585-7676

Nathan C. Sontum, PA-C, M.H.S.

PA-C for department of CT surgery 2010-Present... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiothoracic Surgery

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Scott A. Tatum, PA-C

Scott came to the University over 6 years ago from private practice. As a trainer and consultant for Endoscopic Vein harvesting, he has effectively introduced and incorporated new technology and procedures into the University healthcare system. As the senior physician assistant in the division of cardiothoraci... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiothoracic Surgery, Physician Assistant

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 581-2121

Jill Stratford Waldron, M.S., APRN

Jill Stratford Waldron, graduated from the University of Utah, with her Masters of Science in Nursing, and a Masters Certificate in gerontology. She is a board certified Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP) and gerontologist, with over 15 years of experience in cardiology and 5+ years in teaching undergradu... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiology, Geriatrics, Gerontological Nurse Practitioner, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant, Nurse Practitioner

Locations:

University Hospital (801) 585-5122
University Hospital (801) 585-3693

Locations

University Campus
University Hospital
50 N Medical Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84132
Map
(801) 581-2121
Primary Children's Hospital
100 N Mario Capecchi Dr
Salt Lake City, UT 84132
(801) 662-1000
Idaho
Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center
6140 West Curtisian Ave Ste 200
Boise, ID 83704
(208)367-4278
Montana
Billings Clinic
Appt. Scheduling: (406)238-2000
1020 North 27th Street
Billings, MT 59107
(800)332-7156

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