Ventricular Assist Device
A ventricular assist device (VAD) is an implantable device that provides mechanical support to a person's whose heart is too weak to pump blood effectively on its own. The device does not replace the heart. Instead, it assists the person's own heart to pump blood.
These small, mechanical pumps ensure proper blood flow throughout the body. The VAD may provide blood pressure support; maintain or improve other organ function by improving blood flow to the kidneys, liver, brain and other organs; improve the patient's strength and ability to participate in activities; and allow the patient to be discharged to an outpatient setting.
VADs are often used as a "bridge to a heart transplant", allowing critically ill patients to live productive lives at home while waiting for a heart donor. VADs can also be used as a "bridge to recovery" in situations when a person's heart failure is temporary, and his or her heart's function can become normal again.
Increasingly VADs are being used as "destination therapy" in people who have heart failure, but aren't candidates for a heart transplant. In these patients VADs are placed permanently and were shown to improve quality of life.
Insertion of the device requires surgery. A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) receives blood from the left heart and delivers it to the aorta. A right ventricular assist device (RVAD) receives blood from either the right atrium or right ventricle and delivers it to the pulmonary artery.
Unlike the first generation of devices from 15 years ago, today's devices are smaller, quieter, more comfortable and have longer battery life.