The left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, is a mechanical pump that is implanted inside a person’s chest to help a weakened heart ventricle pump blood throughout the body. Unlike a total artificial heart, the LVAD doesn’t replace the heart. It just helps it do its job.
It can mean the difference between life and death for a person whose heart needs a rest after open-heart surgery or is too weak to pump on its own or who is waiting for a heart transplant
A permanent LVAD is currently being used in some terminally ill patients whose condition makes them ineligible for heart transplantation. It is also called destination therapy.
In studies, therapy with the permanent LVAD device doubled the one-year survival rate for patients with end-stage heart failure as compared with drug treatment alone. However, there were some risks including infection, stroke, and bleeding.
How Does an LVAD Work?>
Like the heart, the LVAD is a pump. One end hooks up to the left ventricle — that’s the chamber of the heart that pumps blood out of the lungs and into the body. The other end connects to the aorta the body’s main artery A tube passes from the device through the skin.The outside of the tube is covered with a unique material to aid in healing and allow the skin to regrow.
The pump and its connections are implanted during open-heart surgery. A computer controller, a power pack, and a reserve power pack remain outside the body. Some models let a person wear these external units on a belt or harness outside.
The power pack has to be recharged at night.
What Are the Benefits of an LVAD?
An LVAD restores normal blood flow to a person whose heart has been weakened by heart disease. It relieves symptoms such as being always tired or short of breath. And sometimes it lets the heart recover normal function by giving it a chance to rest.