A ventricular assist device, or VAD, is a mechanical pump that supports your heart's pumping action and circulates blood through the body.
Cardiologists and cardiac surgeons in Rush's Advanced Heart Failure and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program offer VAD for either temporary support or as destination (long-term) therapy.
These experts — who have decades of experience treating heart disease and providing VAD therapy — will work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your health needs and offers you the best possible quality of life.
In advanced stages of heart failure when medical management is no longer effective, a ventricular assist device may be an option.
The VAD does not replace your heart, but works with your heart to help it pump more blood with less work. It does this by continuously taking blood from the ventricle and moving it to the either the lungs or the aorta, depending on device type.
The VAD has both internal and external components. The actual pump sits below your heart’s ventricle with a tube attached that routes the blood. A cable, called a driveline, extends from the pump out through the skin and connects the pump to a controller and power sources worn outside the body. The driveline must be connected to the controller, and the controller must be connected to power at all times to keep the pump working properly. The pump is powered by batteries or electricity.
VADs can be used as a bridge to transplant or as destination therapy:
- Bridge to transplant is the use of a temporary ventricular assist device for advanced heart failure patients waiting for a donor heart to become available. Finding a donor heart may require anywhere from a couple of days to a few months.
- Destination therapy is the use of a ventricular assist device as permanent treatment for patients in the advanced stages of heart failure who are not eligible for heart transplantation.
Types of ventricular assist devices
Each type of VAD is named for the chamber of the heart it supports:
Left ventricular assist device (LVAD)
- The most commonly used is a left ventricular device or LVAD. The LVAD helps the left ventricle pump blood to the aorta, the artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body.
- LVADs can serve as a bridge to heart transplant as well, while you wait for a donor heart.
- They are often used to support the heart indefinitely, as an alternative to heart transplant surgery.
Right ventricular assist device (RVAD)
- An RVAD helps the right ventricle pump blood to the pulmonary artery, which carries blood from the heart to the lungs.
- It is typically used only for temporary support — after LVAD implantation or other heart surgery — while your heart recovers. Once your heart regains its strength, the RVAD is removed.
- When an LVAD and an RVAD are used at the same time, they are called a BIVAD. This combined approach supports both of the heart's pumping chambers in cases where neither chamber works well enough to meet your body's needs.
Benefits of having a VAD
The overall goal of VAD is improved health and quality of life. Since the pump helps circulate more oxygen rich blood, most patients report feeling better and have more energy to carry out daily activities. In many cases, the improved circulation may prolong life, improve some organ damage caused by heart failure and reduce heart failure symptoms.
Why choose Rush for VAD therapy
- Expertise you can trust: Cardiac surgeons and cardiologists with Rush's Advanced Heart Failure and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program provide expertise and support for you and your family every step of the way, whether your VAD is a bridge to transplant or long-term therapy.
- State-of-the-art facilities: Surgery to place VADs is performed in Rush's interventional platform, a multi-use space where procedures are centralized to allow specialists to collaborate more easily and ensure convenience for patients and families.