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Ventricular Assist Device

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.

Is a VAD right for me?

Ventricular assist devices differ in several ways, including their design, the chamber of the heart they support and how they provide that support.

You may not be a good candidate for a VAD if you have a serious or life-threatening health condition, including the following:

  • Severe kidney failure
  • Serious brain injury
  • Severe infection

If your cardiologist recommends you for a VAD, the VAD team will determine which device is right for you based on a variety of factors, including your overall health, your heart function and how long you'll likely need the device.

Short-term vs. long-term VADs

Short-term VAD

The VAD team may recommende temporary support in these instances:

  • Before, during and/or after heart surgery until your heart recovers and regains its strength.
  • For serious heart conditions, including heart failure, a ventricular arrhythmia or cardiogenic shock.
  • If you have heart failure, to give your doctors time to plan your treatment.

Long-term VAD

A VAD may be needed for an extended period of time in the following cases:

  • If you have heart failure and are waiting for a heart transplant, and medications aren't effectively controlling your symptoms. The VAD can help your heart work better, relieving your symptoms and improving your quality of life.
  • As long-term "destination therapy" if you can't have a heart transplant. For instance, a left ventricular assist device should be able to provide support for seven to 10 years.

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.

BIVAD

  • 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.

Implantable vs. transcutaneous VADs

An implantable VAD is surgically placed inside your body. A transcutaneous VAD supports the heart from outside the body.

Implantable VAD

  • The pump is surgically implanted in your chest. Cables connect the implanted pump to its power source/control device, which is worn on a harness outside of your body.
  • An implantable VAD is used mainly for people who are waiting for a heart transplant, or as a lifelong therapy for people who can't have transplants.
  • If you aren't eligible for a heart transplant, an LVAD can sometimes help improve your overall condition so you are a better transplant candidate.

Transcutaneous VAD

  • Both the pump and power source remain outside of your body. Two thin tubes connect your heart to the pump: One tube carries blood from your heart to the pump; the other brings blood from the pump to your blood vessels.
  • This type of VAD may be used for short-term support during or after surgery until your heart regains its strength and can pump efficiently on its own. Unlike an implanted VAD, a transcutaneous VAD is not meant to provide long-term support.

Why choose Rush for VAD therapy

  • National recognition for excellence: Rush received Ventricular Assist Device Destination Therapy Certification from the Joint Commission. This certification recognizes Rush's excellence in the use of ventricular assist device (VAD) as a destination therapy for patients with heart failure. To receive this certification, the program had to demonstrate that it complies with national standards, integrates evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and has an organized approach to performance improvement in place.
  • 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.