Cardiovascular Services

Heart Failure | Congestive Heart Failure

What is heart failure?

Heart failure occurs when the heart is not pumping like it should. Your heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to all the organs in your body.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a type of heart failure which causes fluid retention (or congestion) in the body's tissues. This can cause swelling in the legs, ankles, and other parts of the body. Sometimes fluid collects in the lungs and interferes with breathing, causing shortness of breath. This is called pulmonary edema.

Heart failure can be caused by:

While there is no cure for heart failure, there are many treatments available that can help you feel better.  

Find cardiac rehab services near you

Cardiac rehab services are medically supervised programs to improve your heart health.

Heart Failure Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments

Signs and symptoms of heart failure can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble breathing when lying down
  • Weight gain
  • Swelling in the feet, legs, ankles or stomach
  • Feeling tired and rundown

Your doctor or healthcare provider will ask for your medical history, family history and symptoms. Your doctors also will check your blood pressure, listen to your heart and lungs, and check your weight. You may also have the following screenings:

Heart failure can be managed with medicine and a healthy lifestyle. If you are experiencing heart failure symptoms, talk to a primary care physician or heart specialist about:

People with advanced heart or lung failure may require mechanical circulatory support (MCS) to replace normal heart and lung functions. Often, these devices are implanted temporarily during an emergency surgical procedure following a heart event. Or, you doctor may recommend a MCS device as a long-term solution for advanced heart or lung failure.

MaineHealth employs the latest equipment and surgical therapies for cardiogenic shock and heart failure including mechanical circulatory support (MCS) devices such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), temporary percutaneous ventricular assist devices to support both the right and left ventricles (VAD), durable implantable left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) and more.

MaineHealth partners with regional heart transplant centers including Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Tufts Medical Center in Boston to support our patients who require heart transplant surgery. A multidisciplinary team of cardiologists, surgeons and specially trained nurses works treats patients who are waiting for, or have already received, a heart transplant.


During a myocardial biopsy procedure, your doctor will use a catheter to obtain a small piece of heart muscle tissue that can be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Myocardial biopsy is used to:

- Evaluate or confirm the presence of rejection after heart transplant
- Diagnose myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)

MaineHealth palliative care services are designed to help patients with serious illnesses live their lives as fully as possible. Treatment focuses on 
  • Preventing suffering by providing care to keep you comfortable
  • Managing symptoms of serious illness
  • Coordinating communication between many caregivers 

Next Steps for Patients

While some patients are candidates for self-referral to our cardiovascular specialists, we recommend that you ask your primary care physician for help with the process.

Provider Referrals

If you are a provider who would like to refer a patient for MaineHealth heart failure services, please review our clinical guidelines and call 207-885-9905.