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?

The heart is a muscle that pumps oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. When you have heart failure, the heart is not able to pump as well as it should. Blood and fluid may back up into the lungs (congestive heart failure), and some parts of the body don’t get enough oxygen-rich blood to work normally. These problems lead to the symptoms of heart failure.

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 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 medicines

  • Excessive sodium (salt) intake

  • Anemia and excessive blood loss

  • Complications of diabetes

  • Alcohol abuse

  • Certain viral infections

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 shortness of breath. The changing fluid dynamics of the body in heart failure can also affect the kidneys and the liver.

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

These are the most common symptoms of heart failure:

  • 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 look like other conditions or medical problems. Always talk to your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is heart failure diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a complete medical history and physical exam. Other tests may include:

  • Chest X-ray. This test uses electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. This test shows the size and shape of your heart. Fluid in the lungs will also show up on X-ray.

  • Echocardiogram (also called echo). This noninvasive test 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. This shows how well the heart pumps. It also shows the thickness of the heart walls, and if the heart is enlarged. It is one of the most useful tests because it shows a great deal of information about the heart's function and helps guide treatment decisions.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). This test records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias), and can sometimes detect heart muscle damage.

  • BNP testing. B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) is a hormone released from the ventricles that occurs with heart failure. BNP levels are useful in the rapid evaluation of heart failure. In general, the higher the BNP levels, the worse the heart failure. BNP is measured from a blood sample.

Treatment for heart failure

The cause of the heart failure will guide the treatment plan. If the heart failure is caused by a valve disorder, then surgery may be done to fix the valve. 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.

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 medicine decreases the pressure inside the blood vessels and reduces the resistance against which the heart pumps. These also help remodel the heart which can promote better pumping ability.

    • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB). This is an alternative medicine to reduce workload on the heart if you can't tolerate ACE inhibitors. Some people develop a cough and need to discontinue ACE inhibitors.

    • Diuretics. These reduce the amount of fluid in the body and are among the most important medicines in helping control fluid buildup in the body.

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

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

    • Antiarrhythmics. 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. They can also promote better pumping over time.

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

  • Biventricular pacing/cardiac resynchronization therapy. A type of pacemaker that paces both pumping chambers of the heart at the same time to coordinate contractions and to improve the heart's function. Some people with heart failure 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. This can be a life saving device.

  • Heart transplant. This is replacing the diseased heart with a healthy one from a donor.

  • 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 medicines and other treatments no longer help. 

Cardiologists

Stavros G. Drakos, MD, PhD

Patient Rating:

4.7

4.7 out of 5

Dr. Drakos is the Co-Chief of Heart Failure and Transplant Section/Division of Cardiology and Medical Director of the Mechanical Circulatory Support (MCS) Program, U of Utah Healthcare. He is the Nora Eccles Treadwell Investigator Associate Professor of Cardiology and Director of Cardiovascular Research for the Division of Cardiology, U of Utah Sch... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiac Mechanical Support, Cardiology, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant

Locations:

University Hospital
Heart Transplant Clinic
801-585-3693
University Hospital
Heart Failure Clinic
801-585-5122

James C. Fang, MD

Patient Rating:

4.9

4.9 out of 5

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 failure, most recently held the Spitz Master Clinician Chair at Case Western Reserve Univers... Read More

Edward Michael Gilbert, MD

Patient Rating:

4.7

4.7 out of 5

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 Disease training at the University of U... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiac Mechanical Support, Cardiology, Echocardiography, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant

Locations:

Billings Clinic 800-332-7156
Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center 208-367-4278
University Hospital
Heart Failure Clinic
801-587-2199
University Hospital
Heart Transplant Clinic
801-585-3693
Veterans Administration Medical Center 801-584-1235

Kimberly M. Molina, MD

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 cardiomyopathy, as well as those individuals wh... Read More

Specialties:

Echocardiography, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant, Pediatric Cardiology

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Jose Nativi-Nicolau, MD

Patient Rating:

4.6

4.6 out of 5

Dr. Nativi-Nicolau is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah and is the Cardiovascular Director of the Amyloidosis Program at the University of Utah and Huntsman Cancer Institute. He received his medical degree from University of Panama. Dr. Nativi-Nicolau completed his Internal Medicine Residency at Drexel University Colleg... 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
Heart Failure Clinic
801-587-2199
University Hospital
Heart Transplant Clinic
801-585-3693
Veterans Administration Medical Center 801-584-1235

John J. Ryan, MD, FACC, FAHA

Patient Rating:

4.9

4.9 out of 5

John J. Ryan MD, FACC, FAHA, has an appointment in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine. He has been on faculty at the University of Utah since 2013. Dr. Ryan is the co-director of the Dyspnea Clinic, a combined, multidisciplinary clinic between the University of Utah Divisio... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiac Imaging, Cardiology, Dyspnea, Heart Failure, Pulmonary Hypertension, Pulmonary Vascular Disease

Locations:

Blanding Family Practice 801-585-7676
University Hospital
Cardiovascular Center
801-585-7676

Josef Stehlik, MD, MPH

Patient Rating:

4.6

4.6 out of 5

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 Cardiovascular Diseases at Allegheny ... 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
Heart Failure Clinic
801-587-2199
University Hospital
Heart Transplant Clinic
801-585-3693
Veterans Administration Medical Center 801-584-1235

Omar Wever-Pinzon, MD

Dr. Wever-Pinzon is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah. He received his medical degree from the University of Panama. Dr. Wever-Pinzon completed his Internal Medicine Residency, followed by a fellowship in Advanced Cardiac Imaging at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center-University Hospital of Columbia University College of... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiac Imaging, Cardiac Mechanical Support, Cardiology, Echocardiography, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant, Nuclear Cardiology

Locations:

University Hospital
Cardiovascular Center
801-587-2199
Veterans Administration Medical Center 801-584-1235

Aaron W. Eckhauser, MD, MSCI

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 a special interest in pediatric heart... 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, MD, MSc

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 combined, integrated training program. ... Read More

Kimberly M. Molina, MD

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 cardiomyopathy, as well as those individuals wh... Read More

Specialties:

Echocardiography, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant, Pediatric Cardiology

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Craig H. Selzman, MD

Patient Rating:

4.8

4.8 out of 5

Dr. Craig Selzman is a Professor of Surgery and Chief of 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 General and Cardiothoracic Surgery training... Read More

Joseph E. Tonna, MD

Dr. Joseph Tonna, MD, FAAEM, is an Assistant Professor of Surgery (Emergency Medicine) at the University of Utah and is the Associate Director of Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Services at the University. He works as an Attending Physician in the Surgical and Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Units and in the Emergency Department. His cli... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiac Mechanical Support, Critical Care, Emergency Medicine, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant, Lung Transplant, Respiratory Critical Care

Locations:

University Hospital
Emergency Medicine
801-581-4314

Specialties:

Cardiothoracic Surgery, Nurse Practitioner

Locations:

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

Irene Cheong, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, GNP

Irene received her doctorate degree in nursing practice from the University of Utah in 2014. Prior to joining the Cardiology Clinic, she practiced as an independent clinician at Health Clinics of Utah providing primary care for patients from all ages and with diverse healthcare needs. Before becoming a nurse practitioner, she worked at the inpatien... Read More

Lynette Evans, APRN, BSN

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 other cardiac pathologies. Lynette is ... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiology, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant

Locations:

University Hospital
Heart Transplant Clinic
801-585-3693
University Hospital
Heart Failure Clinic
801-585-5122
University Hospital
Interventional Cardiology

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 pathologies. He has enjoyed living in Utah the... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiology, Heart Failure, Heart Transplant, Physician Assistant

Locations:

University Hospital
Heart Failure Clinic
801-585-5122
University Hospital
Interventional Cardiology
University Hospital
Heart Transplant Clinic
801-585-3693

Specialties:

Cardiothoracic Surgery, Physician Assistant

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:

Redstone Health Center 801-585-7676
Uintah Basin Medical Center 801-585-7676
University Hospital
Interventional Cardiology
University Hospital
Cardiovascular Center
801-585-7676

Nathan C. Sontum, PA-C, MHS

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.

Sandra D. Spackman, MSN, APRN

Sandee began her career as a cardiology technician as a teenager, and has been fascinated by the cardiology field since.  Working in various areas, she learned to perform many of the tests offered in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine.  Eager to increase her participation in direct patient care, she graduated from nursing school in 1998, and... Read More

Specialties:

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adolescent Preventive Cardiology, Cardiology, General Cardiology, Gerontology, Health Promotion and Education, Heart Failure, Hypertension, Preventive Cardiology

Locations:

Basin Clinic 801-585-7676
Blanding Family Practice 801-585-7676
Redwood Health Center 801-213-9990
San Juan Clinic
San Juan Clinic
801-585-7676
South Jordan Health Center 801-213-5249
University Hospital
William B. Ririe Hospital & Rural Health Clinic 801-585-7676

Specialties:

Cardiothoracic Surgery

Locations:

A location has not yet been added by this physician.

Scott A. Tatum, PA-C

Scott came to the University almost 9 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 cardiothoracic surgery, Scott has 17 years experie... Read More

Specialties:

Cardiothoracic Surgery, Physician Assistant

Locations:

University Hospital 801-581-2121

Jill Stratford Waldron, MS, 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 undergraduate nursing students. She previously... Read More

Specialties:

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

Locations:

University Hospital
Heart Transplant Clinic
801-585-3693
University Hospital
Heart Failure Clinic
801-585-5122

Locations

University Campus
University of Utah 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: 1-406-238-2000
315 North 25th St 2nd floor
Billings, MT 59101
1-800-332-7156

Patient Experience

Clinical Trials

  • CV-201
    Keywords: Stem Cell, Heart Failure, Ischemic Cardiomyopathy
    Status: Recruiting
  • AC6 Trial
    Keywords: Gene Therapy, Heart Failure, Cardiomyopathy
    Status: Active, not recruiting
  • PARAGON
    Keywords: Heart Failure, HFpEF, Structural Heart Disease
    Status: Active, not recruiting
  • TEVA CEP-41750
    Keywords: Stem cells, Heart Failure, Regenerative Medicine, Cardiology, Gene therapy
    Status: Recruiting
  • MOMENTUM 3
    Keywords: Heart Failure, Left Ventricular Assist Device, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Mechanical Circulatory Support, VAD
    Status: Active, not recruiting
  • MOMENTUM 3 CAP
    Keywords: Heart Failure, Left Ventricular Assist Device, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Mechanical Circulatory Support, VAD
    Status: Recruiting
  • MI-NSTEMI
    Keywords: Stem Cell, MI, Heart Attack
    Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Aastrom HF 2B
    Keywords: Stem Cells
    Status: Completed
  • RESTAGE - HF
    Keywords: Heart Failure, LVAD, Left Ventricular Assist Device, Heart Recovery
    Status: Active, not recruiting
  • Jarvik 2000 BTT Trial
    Keywords: LVAD, Heart Failure, Heart Transplantation, Destination Therapy , Bridge to Transplant, Bridge to Recovery
    Status: Recruiting
  • HeartWare VAS for DT Trial
    Keywords: LVAD, Heart Failure, Destination Therapy, Artificial Heart
    Status: Active, not recruiting
  • HeartWare VAD for DT Therapy - ENDURANCE Supplemental Trial
    Keywords: Heart Failure, LVAD, Heart Transplant
    Status: Active, not recruiting
  • Soprano
    Keywords: Post LVAD Implantation, Pulmonary Hypertension
    Status: Not yet recruiting
  • VICTORIA
    Keywords: Heart Failure, Reduced Ejection Fraction
    Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Medtronic TAVR in Low Risk Patients
    Keywords: TAVR, SAVR
    Status: Not yet recruiting
  • REVIVE-IT
    Keywords: heart failure, registry, LVAD
    Status: Not yet recruiting
  • GENETIC-AF
    Keywords: Atrial Fibrillation, Atrial Flutter
    Status: Recruiting
  • Quadripolar Pacing PAS
    Keywords: Heart Failure, Cardiac Device
    Status: Recruiting
  • Utah Cardiac Recovery (UCAR) - SHOCK Registry
    Keywords: Cardiogenic Shock
    Status: Recruiting
  • PARACHUTE IV
    Keywords: Heart Failure, Myocardial Infarction
    Status: Recruiting
  • LVAD and Stem Cells
    Keywords: Heart Failure, LVAD, Stem Cells, Bridge to Transplant, Destination Therapy, Myocardial Recovery
    Status: Recruiting
  • SHOCK-Imaging
    Keywords: Heart Attack
    Status: Recruiting
  • Jarvik 2000 DT Trial
    Keywords: Heart Failure, LVAD, Artificial Heart, Heart Surgery
    Status: Recruiting
  • HeartMate PHP
    Keywords: percutaneous coronary intervention, medical device, ventricular assist device, heart failure, cardiology, interventional cardiology
    Status: Not yet recruiting
  • RAMP-IT-UP
    Keywords: LVAD, Hemodynamics, Echocardiography, Mechanical Circulatory Support, Cardiology, Cardiothoracic Surgery
    Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist for the Treatment of Heart Failure in Patients with Left Ventricular Assist Devices
    Keywords: LVAD, heart failure, recovery, Anakinra, Interleukin-1
    Status: Recruiting