A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical pump that can be implanted in a patient with heart failure. The pump helps the weakened heart move blood throughout the body. Patients with advanced heart failure may consider having a VAD in two situations; bridge-to-transplant and destination therapy.
Bridge-to-transplant VAD therapy is used to support the failing heart function while waiting for a transplant.
Destination therapy offers long-term heart support for a person with end-stage heart failure who may not qualify for a transplant.
The VAD device does not replace the heart. A VAD is categorized according to the area of the heart it helps:
- Left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) help the left side of the heart push blood to the aorta, the body’s main blood vessel.
- Right ventricular assist devices (RVAD) pump blood from the right side of the heart and send it to the lungs.
- Bi-ventricular assist devices (BVAD) help both sides of the heart pump blood.
The LVAD is the more common device used because the left ventricle is responsible for pumping blood to the whole body and is at a higher risk of pump failure. The LVAD helps circulate blood by attaching an outflow from the left ventricle carrying blood to the implanted pump. The pump returns the blood to the aorta (the main artery supplying blood to the body). With the help of the pump, blood flow to the brain, kidneys, lungs, liver and other organs improves.