Ventricular Assist Device
A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical device (“heart pump”) that circulates blood throughout the body when the heart is too weak to pump blood on its own. A small electric motor inside the VAD drives the pump. A left ventricular assist device (LVAD or LVAS) pulls blood from the left ventricle and delivers the blood to the aorta and then out to the rest of the body.
Experts in VAD Technology and Surgery
Northwestern Memorial supports patients with the most current VAD research and technology. We are fully approved by Medicare the Joint Commission on VADs to perform bridge therapy (to safely support a patient to a heart transplant) or destination therapy (for patients ineligible for heart transplant).
Northwestern Memorial’s Center for Heart Failure at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is led by Allen S. Anderson, MD, and Edwin C. McGee, MD. Dr. Anderson is a cardiologist, medical director of the Center for Heart Failure and the medical director of Heart Transplantation and Mechanical Assistance. He is responsible for pre- and post-operative patient management both in the hospital and at home. Dr. McGee is a cardiothoracic surgeon, surgical director of the Center for Heart Failure and the surgical director of Heart Transplantation and Mechanical Assistance. Dr. McGee has extensive experience in both ventricular assist devices and heart transplantation, and also is responsible for post-operative patient management.
Three Parts of a VAD
- A small round pump, weighing about one pound, is attached to your heart. It boosts the flow of blood to your body. Blood is pulled out of your failing left ventricle and pumped into the ascending aorta—the large blood vessel exiting the heart.
- A small electronic computer controller regulates how the pump works.
- Batteries, carried outside your body, are connected to the pump with a cable (or “driveline”) that enters your body through the skin. The battery system is either worn under or on top of your clothing.
Will a VAD Improve Your Heart Function?
- VADs are commonly used to safely support a patient while the wait for a heart transplant (also called “bridge therapy”).
- We sometimes use VADs to support patients with end-stage (Stage D) heart failure and who are ineligible for heart transplant (also called “destination therapy”).
- Occasionally, young people who receive VADs can achieve full heart function recovery. Sometimes those patients can later have their VADs removed.
The VAD Implantation Procedure
How Long Will My VAD Last?
- The type of VAD system you receive
- The purpose of implanting the VAD
- Your specific medical condition
Returning Home and Caring For Your VAD
Types of VAD available at Northwestern Memorial
The Heartware® is a small implantable VAD, which uses magnetic forces to spin a rotor and create blood flow. This design is expected to provide long-term support. Similar to other implantable continuous flow devices, it has a small electrical lead that exits the skin and attaches to an external controller and AC or DC power.
The Heartmate® II is a continuous flow small implanted pump, about the size of a “D” battery, used as an LVAD. The Heartmate II® is FDA approved as a bridge to transplantation and destination therapy. It is the smallest FDA approved LVAD and is suitable for women and patients with smaller body size.
Contact us Today
Patients with advanced heart failure that have exhausted the limitations of medical therapies may be candidates to receive a VAD. For more information, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 1-866-662-8467 or request a first time appointment online.
Among the Nation's Best
In 2013-14 U.S. News & World Report ranked our Cardiology and Heart Surgery program #12 in the nation and the highest ranked program in Illinois for the sixth straight year.