Considering a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)
Some people suffering from advanced heart failure can be helped with a heart pump, also known as a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). An LVAD is a mechanical device that helps people when their hearts are too weak to pump blood.
Because LVADs help pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, patients using an LVAD often have more energy than before and can resume activities they enjoy. Sometimes an LVAD can help the heart rest and regain its ability to pump blood on its own.
How LVADs work
An LVAD does not replace the heart. It assists the heart in pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout the body so that the organs and muscles can function properly. The LVAD system has parts that work inside and outside the body. Inside, a heart pump is attached to the left side of the heart. Outside, a controller, batteries and driveline help to power and control the heart pump.
An LVAD system has four main parts:
- Heart pump—connected to the left side of your heart; moves blood from your heart to the rest of your body
- Batteries—provide power when the system is not plugged into an outlet
- Driveline—transfers power and information between the controller and the heart pump
- Controller—powers and checks the pump and driveline; alerts you to how the system is working and includes emergency backup power
Who is an LVAD for?
Some patients with advanced heart failure use LVADs to help their heart pump blood while awaiting heart transplant surgery, also known as bridge-to-transplantation. Other patients may not be eligible for heart transplant surgery but may still benefit from an LVAD. These patients keep the LVAD for the long term, which is called destination therapy.
Consult your doctor and medical team to determine if LVAD therapy is an option for you.
Complications and risks
Getting an LVAD comes with risks. Complications of LVAD surgery are similar to the potential complications of any open-heart surgery. Possible serious adverse events include the following:
- Bleeding, during surgery or after surgery
- Cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Local infection
- Respiratory failure
- Device malfunction
- Sepsis (serious infection)
- Right heart failure
- Driveline or pocket infection
- Renal failure (inability of the kidneys to remove waste from the blood)
- Neurologic dysfunction (problems affecting the brain or nervous system)
- Psychiatric episode
- Thromboembolic event, peripheral (blood clots)
- Hemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells)
- Hepatic dysfunction (liver problems)
- Device thrombosis (formation of a blood clot inside the device)
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
Individual experiences, symptoms, situations and circumstances may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified healthcare provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment.