Heart Assist System Implantation
(Ventricular Assist Device; VAD)
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
A heart assist system implantation is an artificial heart. It is also called a ventricular assist device (VAD). This single-chamber artificial heart works by compressed air or battery power. The device boosts the function of a failing heart ventricle.
Reasons for Procedure
Heart failure happens when the heart is too weak to pump the blood the body needs. Blood starts to back up. It backs up into the lungs and lower parts of the body. This can cause breathing problems, coughing, as well as swelling in the legs and ankles.
Getting a VAD is a way to improve the heart's ability to pump without having a heart transplant. A VAD is sometimes referred to as a bridge to transplant, since it can be used while a person is waiting for a heart transplant. This device can also be used as a permanent treatment in people who:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review possible problems such as:
Your chances for problems are higher for:
Also, if you have a small stature, you may not be able to get a VAD due to the size of the device.
Be sure to talk about these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
If you need a VAD, it's because your heart's failing. Most likely, you will be on a list to receive a heart transplant. You may already be in the hospital. You may also have:
Leading up to the procedure:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.
Description of the Procedure
This is an open heart surgery. A cut will be made down the length of the breastbone. The breastbone will then be split open. A machine will replace heart and lung function during the procedure. The VAD will be placed into a pocket on the inside of the belly wall. Tubes will be sewn to the heart. Tubes may also be sewn to the aorta. This will depend on the type of device needed.
Immediately After Procedure
You will be in the intensive care unit (ICU). You will be connected to many tubes. The healthcare staff will watch you.
How Long Will It Take?
About 4-8 hours
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Medicines will help ease pain after.
Average Hospital Stay
To help with your recovery at home:
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Heart Association
US Food & Drug Administration
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Left ventricular assist devices (mechanical circulatory support MCS). Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/17192-left-ventricular-assist-devices-mechanical-circulatory-support-mcs. Updated February 2015. Accessed July 25, 2018.
Mechanical circulatory support for heart failure. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dyname... . Updated May 18, 2018. Accessed July 25, 2018.
Slaughter M, Rogers JG, Milano CA, et al. Advanced heart failure treated with continuous-flow ventricular assist device. N Engl J Med. 2009;361(23):2241-2251.
Ventricular assist device. Encyclopedia of Surgery website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed July 25, 2018.
3/6/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dyname... : Peura JL, Colvin-Adams M, Francis GS, et al. Recommendations for the use of mechanical circulatory support: device strategies and patient selection: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012;126(22):2648-2667.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 7/25/2018
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