Ventricular Assist Device

Some individuals with advanced heart failure may benefit from a ventricular assist device (VAD). A VAD is a mechanical heart pump that is surgically implanted in the body. The device helps a weak heart by pumping blood for the heart.

Since 2011, our team has been approved by the Joint Commission to implant VADs. Our team of heart surgeons, cardiologists, advanced practice providers, and nurse coordinators has extensive experience with different heart pumps and surgical techniques. We will provide you with personalized care before and long after the surgery.

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What to Expect

After a thorough evaluation, our team will review the risks and benefit of various treatment options and determine if a VAD is right for you. If the decision is made to proceed with a VAD, you and your caregiver(s) will receive extensive education about living with the device. 

View our guide to Ventricular Assist Devices for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

A VAD is a mechanical heart pump that is surgically implanted in the body. The device helps a weak heart by pumping blood for the heart.

Video: Understanding HeartMate therapy 

The VAD is implanted through an incision through your sternum (breast bone). A driveline, a tube that contains the electrical wire to run the pump, comes out of the skin on the left side of your abdomen. The pump is attached to your heart and pumps it to the body through another tube attached to your aorta, the large artery leaving your heart. The VAD is powered by either batteries or by connection to a power outlet.

See a short overview video of the HeartMate 3™ LVAS including an animation of how the pump works.

Surgery to implant a VAD is similar to other forms of open-heart surgery and requires the opening of the chest and upper abdomen and use of a heart-lung bypass machine.

Most patients who undergo VAD surgery feel dramatically improved once they have recovered from surgery (several weeks) and are able to enjoy an active lifestyle. Many patients find that they are able to enjoy activities they had not experienced in years. Although some adjustments are needed, patients can maintain physical intimacy with a partner, travel and engage in non-contact sports like golf.

Having a VAD does require continued use of medications, including blood thinners; close follow-up with the medical care team; and care of the driveline exit site to prevent infection. Patients with a VAD are required to carry equipment at all times.

Patients with a VAD can shower using a special kit to prevent water from damaging the device components, but immersion in water, such as bathing or swimming, is not safe. 

The VAD team will train you or your caregiver to change the dressing and manage the device and power supply. You or your caregiver will also be taught what to do in an emergency, including changing the controller. 

There will be a member of the team available for you at all times by cell phone to answer questions and advise you in case of an emergency.