LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) Surgery

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a battery-operated device used to help the left ventricle pump blood through the body. 

Ventricular assist devices can be used in a variety of settings for patients who:

  • Are waiting for a heart transplantation
  • Have advanced stages of dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Have chronic heart failure and are not candidates for heart transplantation
  • Have experienced organ rejection after heart transplantation
  • Have had massive heart attacks with no options
  • Have myocarditis
  • Have undergone heart surgery but cannot be taken off cardiopulmonary bypass

There are three categories for using LVADs:

Short term
In high-risk patients who cannot sustain life over the long term
Intermediate term
In patients with a high risk of complications for up to 500 days
Long term
In patients with advanced heart failure who need support outside the hospital

LVAD Preoperative Details

Your surgeon will give specific instructions before LVAD surgery, including risks such as bleeding, infection, or adverse reaction to anesthesia. Please be sure to contact your insurance company for coverage.

You will also meet with the anesthesiologist prior to the surgery to go over your medical history. Please do not eat after midnight the night before your surgery.

On the day of surgery, you will arrive at the hospital, get registered, and change into a hospital gown. A nurse will then review your chart to make sure there are no problems.

The anesthesiologist will then start an IV, and you will be taken to the operating room, where the surgeon will verify your name and procedure before any medication is given. Surgery will begin once you are under anesthesia.

LVAD Operative Details

The surgeon will make a long incision in the chest on the breastbone and access the heart by spreading the rib cage. Cardiopulmonary bypass, a device that pumps oxygenated blood through the rest of the body, bypassing the heart and lungs, may be used in some cases during LVAD installation. 

One end of the tube from the LVAD will be connected to the left ventricle, and the other end from the external LVAD will be connected through the abdomen and to the aorta.

Once the device is working properly, you will come off cardiopulmonary bypass and the chest will be closed with stitches.  

LVAD Postoperative Details

After the surgery, you will be taken to the intensive care unit and monitored. Pain is likely, so you will be given pain medication appropriately. You will be on a respirator for up to one day to support your breathing, and you won’t be able to speak during this time.

You may also have chest tubes placed to drain excess fluid or blood in the chest after the surgery. It’s important to keep the incision areas clean and dry.

The length of your hospital stay depends on how quickly you’re able to recover and perform some physical activity. Please let your doctor know immediately if you experience fever, severe pain, redness, swelling, or warmth where the incisions were made, or drainage from the incisions. Your surgeon will give specific instructions about recovery time.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with an LVAD expert at UT Southwestern's facilities in Dallas or for more information about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.