About Mercy

Mercy Heart Failure Clinic

The Mercy Heart Failure Clinic is designed to provide a comprehensive approach to meeting the specialized needs of adult patients and families with heart failure.

The clinic is dedicated to:

  • Educating patients and families about heart failure and treatment.
  • Improving quality of life for heart failure patients through an education program that focuses on nutrition, fluid balance, medication management, exercise, evidenced-based medical  therapies and referrals to support services.
  • Incorporating patients in the development of their care plan and respecting their  wishes as to the care they receive.
  • Reducing hospital re-admissions and the overall costs of care for patients with heart failure.

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure simply means that your heart’s pumping action is weaker than normal and cannot meet your body’s need for blood flow. Heart failure can occur when the heart’s pumping action is normal, but the heart muscle is stiff and will not relax. This interferes with the heart’s ability to fill with blood and meet the body’s blood flow needs. Weakened heart muscle can also affect other parts of the body, including the kidneys.

Common causes of heart failure

Heart Failure Signs, Symptoms

Many of the symptoms of  heart failure are associated with the congestion that develops as fluid backs up into the lungs and leaks into the tissues. Other symptoms occur because not enough oxygen-rich blood gets to the body.

If you experience any of these symptoms, tell your doctor immediately.

  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing during daily activity or when lying flat
  • Swelling in your feet, ankles, legs, fingers or belly
  • Weight gain; three to five pounds over 24 hours
  • Increased urination at night and decreased urination during the day

Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Sudden or severe chest pain
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Unexplained sweating or weakness
  • Trouble talking
  • Weak legs or arms


While heart failure cannot be cured, it can be treated so that you may still lead a full life. Heart failure medications may help you feel better and treatment may reduce fatigue, shortness of breath and swelling; maintain and restore energy and reduce further damage of the heart muscle.

It is also your responsibility to carefully monitor yourself and help manage your condition. One important way to do this is to track your weight on a daily basis. Weight gain can be a sign that you are retaining fluid and that the pump function of your heart is worsening. Make sure you weigh yourself at the same time each day and on the same scale, with little to no clothes on. If you gain three pounds or more in one day or five pounds in one week notify your physician, as he or she may want to adjust your medication.

Other important measures include:

  • Each morning, weigh yourself after urinating. Record your weight.
  • Take your medications as directed by your physician. Carry a list of medications with you wherever you go.
  • Limit salt and sodium intake.
  • Stop smoking completely; ask your physician for advice today.
  • Stay active.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.

Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

The Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) Program at Mercy is committed to providing outstanding patient-centered care for people with advanced heart failure.  It includes a highly skilled team of surgeons, cardiologists, and LVAD coordinators from the Iowa Heart Center in addition to staff nurses, operating room personnel, rehabilitation specialists and many other professionals.

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a mechanical pump-type device that circulates blood throughout the body when the heart is too weak to pump blood adequately on its own. It is  sometimes called a “heart pump” or “VAD.”

It may be used to support advanced heart failure patients and improve their quality of life while they wait for a donor heart to become available. This is known as “bridge-to-transplant.” It may also be used as a permanent option for patients who are not eligible for heart transplantation, due to age or other medical conditions. Usage of the device in this manner is known as “destination therapy.”

The device is placed just below the diaphragm in the abdomen. It is attached to the left ventricle – the main pumping chamber of the heart, and the aorta – the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to the entire body. It takes over and restores blood flow throughout the body, enabling the patient to breathe more easily and feel less fatigued.

Mercy is the only hospital in central Iowa to offer this device. For more information LVAD, contact the VAD Coordinator at (515) 633-3770.

(515) 247-3121
1111 6th Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50314

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