Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Implantation

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is an implantable mechanical pump that can help the lower chambers of the heart pump blood out of the aorta to the rest of the body more effectively. The VAD does not take the place of the heart; it simply assists the heart by receiving blood from the ventricles and delivering it to the aorta. A VAD can support the left ventricle (LVAD), right ventricle (RVAD) or both ventricles (BIVAD).  

What Conditions Can Be Treated With VAD Implantation? 

Ventricular assist devices have been approved by the FDA for several types of treatment: 

  • Bridge-to-transplant – If a patient has been approved for a heart transplant, a VAD may be an option that can help his or her heart perform better until the transplant can occur. Heart failure can worsen while a patient awaits a transplant, which can lead to hospitalization and damage to other organs.  
  • Destination therapy – If a patient is suffering from heart failure but is not a candidate for a heart transplant, a VAD may be used to support the patient’s heart and improve quality of life. This usage is only an option when all other treatment options, including medications, lifestyle changes and heart procedures, have failed to manage the patient’s heart failure. 
  • Bridge to recovery – In cases where heart failure is temporary, a VAD can be used until the heart is healthy enough to pump blood on its own again.  

VAD Implantation Details 

A ventricular assist device consists of a mechanical pump that is implanted at the apex of the heart and a tube that transports blood from the device to the aorta. A cable passes from the device through the skin on the abdomen to a controller that remains outside the body. The system is operated by rechargeable batteries or a cord that plugs into a socket.  

A VAD is usually implanted through open heart surgery. However, Tampa General Hospital is one of a few hospitals in the nation that is able to implant VADs without opening the chest wall through a minimally invasive approach known as lateral thoracotomy. In this procedure, an incision is made on the patient’s side through the ribcage and the VAD is placed on the heart. 

What to Expect With VAD Implantation

There are risks involved with the implantation of a VAD, including: 

  • Blood clot formation 
  • Bleeding after the procedure 
  • Infection 
  • Device malfunction 

How Effective is VAD Implantation?

Up to 85% of patients who have undergone VAD implantation are alive a year after the procedure, and close to 75% survive at least two years. It should be noted that many VAD implantation patients typically have a life expectancy of less than 12 months without the procedure.  

The cardiac care team at Tampa General Hospital has the experience and advanced technology needed to perform the most complex heart surgeries at high volumes. We participate in clinical trials that advance the treatment landscape, allowing us to produce the best outcomes for our patients.