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Heart failure treated at same-day access clinic

September 24, 2013

When heart failure symptoms strike, people can turn to Duke’s heart failure clinic for the intensive therapy they need right away. The clinic helps people avoid preventable emergency room visits and overnight hospital stays. “We want to reduce the interruption to patients’ lives,” said Duke cardiologist Zubin Eapen, MD.

North Carolina’s only acute heart failure clinic

Heart failure symptoms, such as shortness of breath, leg and ankle swelling, and frequent coughing can be red flags to seek immediate medical care. These symptoms can mean a trip to the emergency room to wait for care, or being admitted to the hospital for intensive care.

Duke’s heart failure specialists provide that intensive care -- such as IV diuretics and electrolytes – at a daily heart failure clinic. It’s the only one of its kind in North Carolina.

“We have the expertise and resources to manage heart failure fast,” says Duke cardiologist Chetan Patel, MD.

How it works

Duke cardiologist Zubin Eapen, MD, and nurse practitioners Midge Bowers, FNP-BC and Karol Harshaw-Ellis, FNP-BC staff the daily clinic, and collaborate with heart specialists throughout Duke Health.

Unlike an urgent care clinic, where walk-ins are welcome, people needing immediate heart failure treatment call ahead or have their doctors refer them.

After receiving care at the clinic, people may be sent home with instructions to return for follow-up care at the clinic or their doctor’s office. If necessary, some may be admitted to the hospital.

The goal, said Eapen, is to provide people with a continuum of care that doesn’t disrupt what they are already receiving. “We work hand-in-hand with our patients’ doctors.”

Living with heart failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart can’t adequately pump blood through the body. It may result from a weak heart, blockage in the arteries, heart valve disease, or other problems. “It’s really a group of disorders that don’t necessarily look like each other but can all have acute flares that require care.” Eapen explained.

Heart failure can come on slowly. “Some people can have no symptoms or mild symptoms,” Eapen said. Common symptoms include fatigue or weakness; shortness of breath; swollen feet, ankles, or abdomen; irregular pulse; weight gain; or frequent nighttime urination.

With proper disease management, it is possible for people to avoid advanced heart failure. Cardiologists at Duke give people with heart failure the care they need when they need it, and help them live with the chronic disease.

Learn more about heart failure treatment options at Duke

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