How is Congestive Heart Failure in Children Treated?
Treatment is aimed at reducing the workload of the heart and getting the heart muscle to squeeze more effectively. The best way to reduce the heart's workload is to rest it. The only time the heart can rest is between beats. Your child's doctor may recommend bed rest or reduced physical activity. The limits on activity will vary depending on how severe the heart failure is, but most people benefit from a gentle exercise program. The specialists in our Heart Center help treat congestive heart failure.
A simple but important way to ease the heart's work and decrease edema is to reduce salt in your child's diet. Salt causes the body to retain water, adding to the volume of blood. The increased blood volume causes the ventricle to work harder and contributes to edema.
Medications are used to reduce the workload of the heart. Blood pressure drugs (antihypertensives) can be used to reduce the pressure against which the heart has to pump. Diuretics (water pills) force the kidneys to excrete the extra water the body has built up. A special class of drugs called ACE inhibitors acts on the kidneys to both affect blood pressure and reduce the retention of fluids. Lower blood pressure and lower blood volume ease the workload of the heart.
A major effort in treating congestive heart failure is to improve the heart muscle’s ability to squeeze. Your child's body attempts to do this by enlarging each heart muscle cell. This strengthens the heart muscle. Like all muscles, there is a limit to the heart's strength. By itself, this may not be enough to do the job.