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Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

A left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, is a mechanical pump that is surgically implanted in patients to slow the progress of severe congestive heart failure. An LVAD assists a faulty left ventricle in pumping blood.

How does it work?

The pump unit is placed in the chest. It is implanted by the surgeon into the apex of the heart where it receives blood. It works by pumping blood by continuous flow from the left ventricle to the aorta.

The LVAD can be used two ways: bridge-to-transplant and destination therapy.

Bridge-to-transplant (BTT):

An LVAD device may be used for patients awaiting heart transplant. As patients wait for their transplantation, their heart and medical condition may continue to worsen which may lead to hospital admission, increased symptoms and damage to other organs such as the kidneys, liver and lungs.

If a patient is a candidate for a heart transplant, bridge-to-transplant therapy helps the patient survive until a donor heart becomes available. The LVAD assists the heart and allows the patient to have better quality of life and fewer symptoms; and is then removed at the time of transplant.

Destination therapy (DT):

In other cases, an LVAD is used for patients with heart failure who are not candidates for heart transplant surgery. It is considered only for patients when all other treatment options, such as medications, lifestyle changes and heart procedures, have been tried and not effectively managed heart failure.

The goal of DT is to support the patient’s heart function and improve quality of life for the rest of the patient’s life.

Am I a good candidate for treatment?

An LVAD is a treatment option for certain patients with end-stage heart failure. The device is not an appropriate treatment option for all patients. Patients with clotting problems, kidney failure, liver disease, lung disease, or infections may not be a candidate for an LVAD.

What can I expect after treatment?

The patient will learn how to manage the device and trouble-shoot potential emergency situations. He or she will be required to demonstrate knowledge about the device before being discharged from the hospital.