• Heart failure, assist devices and transplants

    heart-to-heart-iconThe Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant program at UK HealthCare offers a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of heart disease. Our program combines highly trained and renowned physicians and state-of-the-art technology. We bring together a team of experts from all areas of cardiology who focus on the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure.

    We know the term “heart failure” can be frightening, so our doctors and staff work together to create a treatment program that best suits each individual patient’s needs – from the proper medication, lifestyle modification, ventricular assist support devices or, if necessary, a heart transplant.

    Our goal is to provide every patient with exceptionally compassionate care in the safest and most appropriate manner possible based on the best evidence and the latest technological advances.

    Make an appointment using our online request form or call 859-257-1000 or toll free 1-800-333-8874.

  • CardioMEMS™ Heart Failure System

    When the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands, blood pressure within the heart is elevated, which can lead to heart failure. Measuring pulmonary artery pressure is an early indicator that heart failure is getting worse. Directly measuring pressure through a right-heart catheterization is a standard-of-care practice for patients who have been hospitalized. However, since heart failure is a chronic disease, most days are spent outside the hospital.

    In recent years health professionals have found that self and in-clinic monitoring options, which are limited by poor sensitivity to detecting subtle heart failure changes, have resulted in increased admissions to the hospital. To help patients better monitor pulmonary artery pressure, cardiologists at the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute are the first in Kentucky to adopt a new diagnostic device, the  CardioMEMS™ Heart Failure System. 


    The sensor is implanted into the pulmonary artery using minimally invasive techniques and is designed to last the lifetime of the patient.

    The implantable sensor is a completely sealed capsule.

    Images provided courtesy of St. Jude Medical, Inc.

    The CardioMEMS™ Heart Failure System uses a miniaturized, wireless monitoring sensor that is implanted in the pulmonary artery during a minimally invasive procedure. The system allows patients to transmit pulmonary artery pressure data from their homes to clinicians at the Gill Heart & Vascular Institute, allowing for personalized and proactive management to reduce the likelihood of hospitalization.

  • What is heart failure?

    Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, is a condition where the heart cannot pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the needs of the body's other organs. A failing heart keeps pumping, but not as efficiently as a healthy heart. Usually, the heart's diminished capacity to pump reflects a progressive, underlying condition. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump out all of the blood that enters it, causing blood to collect in the vessels and fluid to accumulate in body tissues. Nearly 5 million Americans are living with heart failure, and 400,000 to 700,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

    The common risk factors for heart failure are:

    • Advancing age
    • African-American heritage
    • Poorly controlled high blood pressure
    • Diabetes
    • Family history of congestive heart failure
    • History of alcohol abuse

    The common signs and symptoms

    The most common signs of congestive heart failure are shortness of breath, fatigue, and swollen ankles or legs. Another symptom is weight gain due to the buildup of fluid in the body.   

    What causes heart failure?

    Heart failure is usually the result of another condition that makes the heart weak or stiff.  Common causes include:

    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-rayA diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
    • Echocardiogram (also called echo).  A non-invasive 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 ultrasound equipment 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.
  • Treatment options 


    Heart failure is a chronic disease, but it can be managed successfully with medications and lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise. Several medications are available that have been shown to improve symptoms and outcomes in heart failure. If heart failure is due to severe high blood pressure (hypertension), proper treatment of this can improve symptoms. In a few instances, heart failure can be cured through surgical methods. For example, if heart failure is due to a leaky or narrowed heart valve, surgical repair or replacement of the valve can fix the problem. Devices such as defibrillators and cardiac resynchronization therapy can also help improve symptoms.

    Routine medical follow-up is recommended in patients with heart failure. This allows the medical provider to adjust medication as necessary and monitor the patient’s condition. If heart failure worsens to the point that routine daily activities are difficult to perform, advanced treatment options such as heart transplantation or placement of a ventricular assist device may be considered.  

    Heart transplant and ventricular assist devices

    For patients with heart failure who cannot be successfully treated with medical therapy, heart transplantation should be considered. UK HealthCare has performed more than 200 heart transplants in its history with excellent results. Consideration of heart transplantation requires a consultation with members of our transplant team, including a transplant cardiologist, a cardiothoracic surgeon, a social worker and a transplant coordinator. UK HealthCare also has an advanced ventricular assist device (VAD) program. VADs are surgically implanted pumps that can assist the failing heart and allow patients to feel better. 

    Advanced certification

    The Joint Commission, an independent nonprofit organization that accredits and certifies heath care organizations, recently awarded the UK Gill Heart Institute an advanced certification in ventricular assist devices. To earn this distinction, a program must meet The Joint Commission’s exacting requirements.



    • Hardesty, Peggy, ARNP, HF Transition Coach 
    • Mark Bradley, RN, VAD coordinator 
    • Donna Dennis, RN, Heart Transplant coordinator 
    • Thomas Tribble, ECMO and VAD coordinator  
    • Summer Davies, MS, Transplant and VAD social worker 


  • Reuben Ligon

    Making a Difference - A Matter of Heart

    Reuben Ligon had a broken heart for years. When it came time to replace it with a transplanted one, there was only one place he would trust for the surgery: UK.  Read more of Reuben's story »

  • Heart to Heart support group

    heart-to-heart-iconHeart to Heart is a patient support group for patients and families who have undergone a heart transplant or implantation of an artificial heart or ventricular assist device. Our goal is to provide holistic care for each patient (and caregivers) to meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs in all phases of their care.  

    The support group, which meets each month, includes cardiothoracic surgeons, transplant cardiologists, heart transplant coordinators, a chaplain, social worker, dietician and nurses who provide care to these patients every day. 

    For more information, please contact Tammy Halcomb at tfha222@uky.edu or visit our Facebook page: University of Kentucky Heart to Heart Support Group.

    For information about the UK HealthCare Cardiothoracic Transplant / VAD Support Group contact Donna Dennis at donna.dennis@uky.edu or visit our Facebook page.

    Find more information and support

    American College of Cardiology

    National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Information Center

    Kerrington's Heart

    It's My Heart

    Mended Hearts