Ventricular Assist Device
What it’s for
Heart failure is a severely debilitating disease. The heart can no longer supply enough blood to support the body’s needs. As a result, people with heart failure feel tired much of the time, unable to do even the simplest tasks of daily life.
Heart failure can often be treated effectively with medications. When medications are not effective, heart transplant may be the best treatment.
For some people—such as older patients—heart transplant is not an option. Fortunately, many of these patients may be helped by a Ventricular Assist Device, also known as a VAD.
A VAD does not replace your heart, but works alongside it. It is a mechanical pump not much bigger than your finger that is surgically implanted next to your heart. It then runs on power from a battery pack that you carry at your side, constantly helping your heart to pump blood.
VADs have been shown to dramatically improve heart failure symptoms in many patients. Survival rates for patients with VADs are quickly approaching those of patients with heart transplants.
VADs can also be used as a bridge to a transplant. In other words, a temporary VAD can be used to help patient become healthier while they are waiting for a donor heart to become available.
How it’s done
Open heart surgery is required to implant a VAD. Patient will be under general anesthesia for this procedure.
The surgeon opens up patients sternum to reveal the heart. While the VAD is being implanted, the heart is stopped and patient is put on the heart lung machine. The heart lung machine supplies the body with the blood it needs during the surgery.
The VAD is attached to the left ventricle and to the aorta. The surgeon also attaches the VAD to an external power supply. Once the VAD is turned on, patient will be disconnected from the heart lung machine and the incision will be closed.
The VAD works by helping the heart pump blood from left ventricle into the aorta. From there, the blood circulates throughout the body.
After surgery, patient stays in the ICU for 2-3 days. They are then moved to a regular hospital room where they work with nurses and physical therapists as they recover.
Most patients receiving a VAD return home within 2-4 weeks. There are several medications that will need to be take regularly, such as blood thinner to prevent the formation of blood clots in the VAD.
There are several important risks to consider before having a VAD implanted. Your doctors will discuss all of these risks with you.
· Blood clots
· Device malfunction
· Respiratory failure
· Kidney failure
· Right heart failure