Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a very common condition in which the heart becomes increasingly ineffective at pumping blood and fluid backs up and leaks into the lungs and other tissues. It is a very frequent cause of hospitalization. Diuretics (medications that remove fluid from the body by increasing the volume of urine produced) have been the mainstay of acute treatment, and in the last few years other medications such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and aldosterone blockers have been shown to be important in chronic management.

A recent study, the results of which will be released in tomorrow’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, compared treating patients hospitalized with CHF with diuretics and with blood filtration. Blood filtration is a method similar to dialysis that is used to remove fluid directly from the blood stream. It is a technique that has been used for decades in removing fluid from patients with kidney failure. The results were presented Sunday at an American College of Cardiology meeting in Atlanta, and were reported in this Associated Press article, which you may wish to read for the full details.

The results showed that filtration was more effective at removing fluid and led to fewer hospitalizations in the following three months.

“It’s really pretty exciting,” said Dr. Clyde Yancy, a cardiologist at UT-Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and an American Heart Association spokesman who had no role in the study. “You could use this right now … based on this information.”

I agree. It is exciting to see a breakthrough in the treatment of such a common disease.