Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

Paula Kay VAD-heroimage

Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

A ventricular assist device, or VAD, can improve your circulation to help prolong life, improve organ damage and reduce heart failure symptoms.

A ventricular assist device, or VAD, can improve your circulation to help prolong life, improve organ damage and reduce heart failure symptoms.

A ventricular assist device, or VAD, is a mechanical pump that supports your heart's pumping action and circulates blood through the body.

The overall goal of VAD is to improve your health and quality of life. Since the pump helps circulate more oxygen-rich blood, most people report feeling better and having more energy to carry out daily activities. In many cases, the improved circulation may prolong your life, improve some organ damage caused by heart failure and reduce your heart failure symptoms.

Cardiologists and cardiac surgeons who specialize in heart failure and mechanical circulatory support 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.

What is a Ventricular Assist Device?

In advanced stages of heart failure when medical management is no longer effective, a ventricular assist device may be an option for you.

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 either the lungs or the aorta, depending on the type of device.

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 while you wait for a heart transplant or as destination (long-term) 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.
  • Long-term therapy is the use of a ventricular assist device as long-term 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 also often used to support the heart indefinitely, as an alternative to heart transplant surgery.
Antone Tatooles, MD, a thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon at Rush, explains how Left Ventricular Assist Devices or LVADs can help patients with heart failure to have better quality of life and fewer symptoms, as well as the process for surgically implanting the devices.

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.
stethoscope Meet our ventricular assist device (VAD) providers

Rush Excellence in Ventricular Assist Device

  • Among the best in the U.S.: U. S. News & World Report ranked Rush University Medical Center among the best in the nation for cardiology.
  • Holistic support every step of the way: Cardiac surgeons and cardiologists who specialize in heart failure and mechanical circulatory support 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.
  • Convenience and collaboration: While you may have your ventricular assist device surgery performed at Rush University Medical Center, you can benefit from convenient follow-up care at a number of convenient locations in Chicago, Aurora/Fox Valley and the suburbs.


Ventricular assist device patient, Reggie

I had a great experience with my surgery . . . I felt good, and I was ready to go home and get back to my life.

Read Reggie's Story