LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device)

Ventricular assist devices are small, battery-operated devices that help the heart pump blood. Depending on individual patient needs, ventricular assist devices can be appropriate for short-, intermediate-, or long-term use.

The most commonly used type, known as an LVAD (left ventricular assist device), is a mechanical pump that serves as a partial artificial heart. Implanted during an open procedure, an LVAD helps the left ventricle pump oxygen-rich blood to the aorta and the body. The devices are steadily getting smaller, more durable, more reliable, and easier to implant, bringing the potential for a longer, healthier life to an ever-expanding group of patients. LVADs can help heart failure patients who:

  • Are considered too elderly for heart transplant
  • Have a body-mass index considered too high for heart transplant
  • Have myocarditis
  • Have undergone heart surgery but cannot be safely removed from cardiopulmonary bypass
  • Have another contraindication to heart transplant
  • Are on the heart transplant list but are not stable enough to wait for a donor heart to become available

UT Southwestern was involved in some of the groundbreaking clinical trials of LVADs including REMATCH, and was one of the first centers in the U.S. approved for LVAD destination therapy for long-term support. We are currently involved in studies looking to see how heart function can recover while patients are supported by a LVAD.

These state-of-the-art, surgically implanted devices can be very effective in treating patients waiting for heart transplantation, those who aren’t candidates for heart transplantation, and those with serious cardiac conditions such as advanced heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and myocarditis. During the LVAD placement surgery, patients are connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, which takes over the work of the heart and lungs until the operation is complete.

The surgeon will connect one end of the LVAD tube to your left ventricle and a tube exiting the other end of the external LVAD to your aorta. A small electrical cord connected to the LVAD, called a driveline, exits from your upper abdomen and is connected to a power supply (either batteries or a plug-in) and a small computer to run the device.

After surgery, you’ll be taken to the intensive care unit, monitored, and kept comfortable. Typically, you will be on a respirator for up to one day to support your breathing.

The length of your hospital stay depends on how quickly you recover. Your surgeon will provide specific instructions about your recovery.