Ventricular assist devices (VADs) help your heart pump blood from one of the main pumping chambers to the rest of your body or to the other side of the heart. These pumps are implanted in your body. In most cases they are connected to machinery outside your body.
A ventricular assist device has 3 parts:
If you are having an implanted VAD placed, you will need general anesthesia. This will make you sleep and be pain-free during the procedure.
A tube will connect the pump to your heart. Another tube will connect the pump to your aorta or one of your other major arteries. Another tube will be passed through your skin to connect the pump to the controller and batteries.
The VAD will take blood from your ventricle (one of the main pumping chambers of the heart) through the tube that leads to the pump. Then the device will pump the blood back out to one of your arteries and through your body.
Surgery most often lasts 4 to 6 hours.
There are other types of VADs (called percutaneous ventricular assist devices) which can be placed with less invasive techniques to help the left or right ventricle. However, these typically cannot provide as much flow (support) as the surgically implanted ones.
You may need a VAD if you have severe heart failure that cannot be controlled with medicine, pacing devices, or other treatments. You may get this device while you are on a waiting list for a heart transplant. Some people who get a VAD are very ill and may already be on a heart-lung support machine.
Not everyone with severe heart failure is a good candidate for this procedure.
Risks for this surgery are:
Most people will already be in the hospital for treatment of their heart failure.
Most people who are put on a VAD spend from a few to several days in the intensive care unit (ICU) after surgery. You may stay in the hospital from 2 to 8 weeks after you have had the pump placed. During this time you will learn how to care for the pump.
Less invasive VADs are not designed for ambulatory patients and those patients need to stay in the ICU for the duration of their use. They are sometimes used as a bridge to a surgical VAD or heart recovery.
A VAD may help people who have heart failure live longer. It may also help improve patients' quality of life.
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.