What Is a Ventricular Assist Device?

If you are living with heart failure that is not responding to other treatments or if you have end-stage systolic heart failure, your doctor may recommend a ventricular assist device (VAD) to help you manage your condition.

A VAD, a surgically implanted pump, helps pump blood from the heart to your lungs and the rest of your body. If you are awaiting a heart transplant, a VAD is a valuable tool to improve your symptoms and quality of life. A VAD may also be used if you do not meet the criteria for, or do not want, a heart transplant. The goal of a VAD is to improve your blood flow, cardiac output, organ function and ability to be active.

Before Ventricular Assist Device Surgery

To see if you are a candidate for a VAD, your medical team will perform medical and psychosocial evaluations, which usually occur after you have been hospitalized for heart failure. The physical screening may include a general health evaluation and tests to measure the function of your heart, kidneys, liver and lungs. A nutritionist, pharmacist and physical therapist may also evaluate you to determine how your quality of life will improve with a VAD. Additionally, they will explain the benefits, risks and function of VADs.

During Ventricular Assist Device Surgery

A surgeon will place your VAD in the left or the right ventricle of your heart, depending on your individual needs. The VAD will take the demand off of the side of the heart where it is placed. The operation typically takes six to 10 hours, and you will recover in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CICU) for several days.

After Ventricular Assist Device Surgery

After your surgery, you will meet with your healthcare team for training about how to take care of your VAD. This training will include information about how to maintain your device and what to do during emergencies. You will also discuss new diet and activity guidelines and when it may be necessary to contact your doctor.

Joint Commission Certification

UK HealthCare has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval™ for its ventricular assist device destination therapy program by demonstrating compliance with The Joint Commission’s national standards for healthcare quality and safety in disease-specific care. The certification award recognizes our organization’s dedication to continuous compliance with The Joint Commission’s state-of-the-art standards.

The Joint Commission's Advanced Certification in Ventricular Assist Device Destination Therapy, developed in response to Medicare requirements, provides standards for hospitals related to:

  • Staffing and facility infrastructure to support ventricular assist device placements;
  • Participation in a national, audited registry for patients who have received mechanically assisted circulatory support devices; and
  • Volume requirements for board certified cardiac surgeons who place ventricular assist devices.