Harvard Heart Letter

Mechanical fix for fluid overload

During a heart failure crisis, filtering the blood works as well as drugs to remove excess fluid.

Heart failure sends more than one million Americans to the hospital each year, struggling to breathe through fluid-filled lungs. The traditional treatment for helping them get rid of their excess fluid is powerful intravenous drugs that rev up urine production. A machine that filters water and salt from the blood could offer a faster, and possibly safer, alternative.

Heart failure occurs when a weakened or damaged heart can't pump blood efficiently enough to meet the body's needs. The body's amazing ability to keep itself in balance, helped along by drugs and diet, can keep heart failure under control. When it suddenly flares up (what doctors call decompensated heart failure), fluid can fill the lungs or pool in the legs.

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