Congestive heart failure
Treatment & Care
It’s entirely natural that you might be concerned right now about your child’s health; a diagnosis of congestive heart failure can be frightening. But you can rest assured that at Children’s Hospital Boston, our compassionate caregivers will do everything they can to secure the best possible outcome for your child, and we will keep you involved and updated every step of the way.
Treatment for congestive heart failure will depend your child’s age and the cause and severity of the CHF. Common components of treatment include medication, surgery, device therapy and sometimes heart transplantation.
Medications are often helpful in treating CHF initially, though eventually they may lose their effectiveness. They may also be used after surgery to help your child’s heart function as it heals.
While your child’s doctor will determine the medications that are most appropriate for her, some of the most commonly prescribed include:
digoxin to help strengthen her heart muscle and help it pump more effectively
diuretics, such as lasix and aladactone, to relieve congestion and edema
vasodilators, such as captopril, enalapril or lisinopril, to relax the muscle of the blood vessels, making it easier for the heart to pump
- beta blockers to slow down the heart rate and reduce the size of your child’s heart (many times, heart organs with CHF are enlarged, which makes them less efficient at pumping blood)
Depending on the cause of your child’s congestive heart failure, surgery may help.
Our pediatric cardiac surgeons have access to robotic surgery, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery and other types of minimally invasive cardiac surgery. And through techniques we practice in our Interventional Cardiac Catheterization Program some children are able to bypass an operation altogether - learn more.
A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a battery-operated pump connected to the heart. It collects blood from the failing heart through a tube and pumps it back to the main blood vessel coming out of the heart. The device can be used to supplement your child’s heart function while he waits for a heart transplant. At Children’s, we also offer cardiac resynchronization therapy, a specialized pacemaker that helps some children with heart failure by making the heart walls pump blood in a more coordinated fashion.
A heart transplant is an operation in which the transplant surgeon removes your child’s poorly functioning heart and replaces it with a new one.
After surgery, the new heart begins functioning and a child's health often improves quickly, although transplants carry complications of their own. Read more about heart transplants.
Coping and support
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone as you deal with the many emotional and psychological issues that affect your family as you deal with your child’s heart condition. There are many resources available to help you and your family – within Children’s, in the outside community and online. Some of these resources are:
Patient education: From your first visit our nurses will be on hand to walk you through your child’s treatment and help answer any questions you may have. They will also reach out to you by phone, continuing the care and support you received while at Children’s.
Parent to parent: Want to talk with someone whose child has been treated for congestive heart failure? We can often put you in touch with other families who have been through similar experiences and can share their experience .
Faith-based support: If you are in need of spiritual support, we will help connect you with the Children’s chaplaincy. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy representing Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and United Church of Christ traditions who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your hospital experience.
Social work and mental health professionals: Our social workers and mental health clinicians have helped many other families in your situation. We can offer counseling and assistance with issues such as coping with your child’s diagnosis, stresses relating to coping with illness and dealing with financial difficulties.
On our For Patients and Families site, you can read all you need to know about:
- getting to Children’s
- navigating the hospital experience
- resources that are available for your family
|THE EXPERIENCE JOURNAL|
|The Experience Journal is an online tool developed here at Children’s that provides a place for you and your child to read stories and advice from other kids and families affected by pediatric heart disease, and share some of your own.|
|Our patient-centered approach means that we want your child to not only get better, but also feel good along the way. Throughout the hospital, you'll find clinicians trained in therapies that can make your child feel more comfortable, learn to shift focus away from pain and enjoy some peaceful moments during what may be an anxious time. Read more about how acupuncture, guided meditation, guided imagery, massage, Reiki and therapeutic touch could help your child.|