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Mechanical Circulatory Support Device

cardiothoracic referral form buttonA ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical device that helps a weakened heart by taking on some of its workload. It works by taking over the pumping action of a failing heart ventricle to provide adequate blood circulation throughout the body. Since 2002, Tampa General Hospital’s Mechanical Circulatory Support Program has been committed to the care of individuals with end-stage heart disease. TGH’s Ventricular Assist Device Program has received advanced disease-specific certification from The Joint Commission. VADs can be used for three specific purposes:

  1. As a bridge to recovery: A VAD can be used to support a patient after a difficult bypass surgery but is removed in a few days when the patient's heart recovers.

  2. As a bridge to transplant: A VAD can be used to support a patient until a donor heart becomes available.

  3. As destination therapy: Some VADs can be implanted permanently for long-term therapy in patients with severe heart failure who are not candidates for heart transplantation.

Tampa General’s Mechanical Circulatory Support Program offers a variety of devices. From 1996 to early 2002, devices made by AbioMed and Novacor were the sole devices used to support patients waiting for transplantation. In April 2002, we added the HeartMate system, which provides long-term support. As of December 2017, more than 600 patients have received VAD support at Tampa General either as a bridge to recovery or transplant, or as a destination therapy, making us one of the busiest centers in the nation to provide VAD therapy. Click here for the Cardiothoracic Transplant and VAD Programs Referral Form.

Types of VADs

Illustration of HeartMate II Left Ventricular Assist Device
HeartMate II LVAD

HeartMate II® Left Ventricular Assist Device The HeartMate II LVAD (left ventricular assist device) is a continuous flow, implantable pump. The LVAD or blood pump is surgically implanted with one end directly placed in the left side of the heart and the other end connected to the aorta (large blood vessel that is attached to the heart). The pump serves to divert some of the blood flow from the weakened heart directly into the circulatory system. It is then attached to a driveline, which is tunneled through the abdomen and exits through the abdominal wall. This driveline attaches to a controller (microprocessor) and is powered by either AC adaption or batteries.

  • Quiet operation; auscultate over chest wall to hear a low-pitched whirling sound
  • May not have a palpable pulse; important to assess for adequate blood flow (i.e., mental status, skin color and temperature)
  • Routine assessment of BP is challenging and, at times, unreliable
  • Best to use Doppler/BP cuff; first sound when cuff deflated is considered to be mean arterial blood pressure (MAP); goal for MAP is 60-90 mmHg
  • FDA approved for bridge to transplant or destination therapy (permanent therapy)
  • Updated controller now available with display of pump parameters and alarm troubleshooting
  • Must be attached to a power source at all times (AC, car adapter or batteries)

Illustration of male with HeartWare Left Ventricular Assist Device
HeartWare LVAD

HeartWare® Left Ventricular Assist Device The HeartWare LVAD (left ventricular assist device) is a surgically implanted, continuous centrifugal flow VAD. The VAD is directly sewn in to the left side of the heart and the other end of the tube is sewn in to the circulatory system. The driveline is tunneled through the abdomen, exiting the body through the abdominal wall. The driveline is attached to a controller, which displays the pump parameters such as flow and any active alarms status. The controller is then attached to a power source: AC adapter, car adapter or batteries.

  • Quiet operation; auscultate over chest wall to hear a low-pitched whirling sound
  • May not have a palpable pulse; important to assess for adequate blood flow (i.e., mental status, skin color and temperature)
  • Routine assessment of BP is challenging and, at times, unreliable
  • Best to use Doppler/BP cuff; first sound when cuff deflated is considered to be mean arterial blood pressure (MAP); goal for MAP is 60-90 mmHg
  • FDA approved for bridge to transplant
  • Must be attached to a power source at all times (AC, car adapter or batteries)

HeartMate 3 LVAD
HeartMate 3 LVAD

Heartmate 3™ LVAD The Heartmate 3™ LVAD is a continuous flow, implantable pump. This driveline attaches to a controller (microprocessor) and is powered by either AC adaption or batteries.

  • Quiet operation; auscultate over chest wall to hear a low-pitched whirling sound
  • May not have a palpable pulse; important to assess for adequate blood flow (i.e., mental status, skin color and temperature)
  • Fully magnetically levitated
  • Large pump gaps designed to reduce blood trauma
  • Artificial pulse
  • Textured blood contacting surfaces
  • Wide range of operation
  • Full support (2 – 10 L/min)
  •  Advanced design for surgical ease
  • Engineered apical attachment
  • Modular driveline
  • Routine assessment of BP is challenging and, at times, unreliable

Illustration of SynCardia Total Artificial Heart
SynCardia Total Artificial Heart

SynCardia Total Artificial Heart (TAH)

  • Total Artificial Heart – Intended for severe biventricular heart disease
  • Used as a bridge to transplant
  • Discharge to home with portable driver

The evaluation and decision making that the medical team and patients/caregivers must undergo to proceed with surgery for VAD implantation is a complex process. Our goal is to offer the most appropriate treatment option to the right patient at the right time.    

VAD/TAH support is not an option for everyone; however many patients who are candidates for this support report feeling better and stronger. Life with a VAD is an adjustment for the patient and the caregiver. Most VAD patients are able to return to work and live a normal lifestyle with a few restrictions such as no swimming or contact sports. They are encouraged to pursue a quality of life in whatever they define that to mean. Our patient support group foundation, BEAT AFTER BEAT, seeks to educate, advocate, and support the VAD patient and caregivers. We highly encourage our patients to participate in the group. 

The MCS Program at TGH has experienced tremendous growth over the past decades and is now recognized as a center of excellence regionally and nationally. The MCS Program is a leading VAD center in Florida and one of the best in the nation. We strive to be at the forefront of clinical services, medical research and in conjunction with our USF partners, to become a regional, national and international VAD therapy education center. 

To contact the office, call 1-800-505-7769 and select option 2 for the VAD program, or email us at vadteam@tgh.org.