Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

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A VAD, or ventricular assist device, is a mechanical heart pump that can be implanted alongside a weakened heart to help it pump blood throughout the body. The device does not replace the heart, but helps it pump blood more effectively.

VADs most commonly are placed to assist the left side of the heart, which is responsible for sending oxygen-rich blood out to the body. In this use, a left-ventricle assist device (LVAD) takes the workload off the left ventricle after heart failure has significantly decreased its pumping power.

The Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Mechanical Circulatory Support Program offers the latest in VAD technology to support a patient’s heart function when medication is no longer effectively controlling heart failure symptoms. A VAD also can be implanted to sustain a patient while awaiting a heart transplant.

What Is an LVAD and How Is It Different From a VAD?

Most heart failure happens on the left side of the heart and, specifically, in the left ventricle. An LVAD is a type of VAD that supports the left ventricle. Less frequently, a VAD can be placed on the right side of the heart to support the right ventricle or configured to support both ventricles.

The left ventricle is the part of the heart muscle that squeezes oxygen-rich blood out to the body. When the heart fails to pump blood as it should, it is often because the left ventricle muscle has thickened and enlarged after years of high blood pressure.

The thicker muscle is less efficient at pumping blood. As heart failure progresses, patients become less able to tolerate exertion and are short of breath even while lying down. As the heart is less able to keep blood moving, fluids can back up in the body, causing congestion in the lungs and other organs (congestive heart failure).

Depending on your condition and your treatment goals, you may qualify for an LVAD. With the mechanical heart pump in place, many patients are able to resume activities and won’t need a heart transplant. In some patients, a VAD is used as a bridge to a heart transplant.

  1. Pump: Implanted into the left ventricle
  2. Driveline: Wiring that connects the pump and controller
  3. Controller: Tells pump how to run
  4. Batteries: Provide power to VAD

How a VAD Is Implanted

The VAD itself is implanted and connected to your heart and blood vessels. A wire leads from inside your chest to a controller and battery packs on a belt.

During surgery to implant your VAD, our surgeons will connect your arteries and veins to a heart-lung bypass machine. The pump itself will be in your upper abdomen with tubes connecting it to your heart and an artery.

Do I Need a VAD?

If your heart failure symptoms cannot be controlled by medications alone, it is time to consider alternative therapy. Some individuals may need short-term support prior to a heart transplant, while others need long-term support.

A VAD can be used as a bridge to transplant, which means it can help a person survive until a donor heart becomes available for transplant. The VAD may allow you to go home while waiting for a heart transplant.

A VAD also can be used as destination therapy, a more permanent solution, which is an alternative to a heart transplant. It can be used if you are not a candidate for a transplant.

Whichever use is determined to be best for you, the goal of having a VAD placed is to provide effective support for your heart and maintain or improve your heart function.

Heart and Vascular Care for the Whole Person

Norton Heart & Vascular Institute offers patient resources to support you and your family, including free classes for people of all ages who are seeking to improve cardiovascular health or living with a heart condition.

Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

Our cardiac rehabilitation providers are leaders in developing and applying innovative techniques that can help you recover and resume your life.

Connecting Hearts Support Group

The group provides education and support to individuals who have had a heart attack, are living with a heart condition or are at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Heart Health Screenings

Prevention is the best way to manage heart disease, and screenings are available to detect early signs of cardiac and vascular disease and identify risk factors.

About Norton Heart & Vascular Institute

Every year, more than 137,000 people in Louisville and Southern Indiana choose Norton Heart & Vascular Institute specialists for their heart and vascular care. That’s more than any other health care provider.

  • Norton Healthcare’s adult-service hospitals in Louisville all have received Chest Pain Center accreditation from the American College of Cardiology (ACC). This is the seventh consecutive accreditation for all four hospitals, which ensures quality for the treatment of heart attack.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital, Norton Brownsboro Hospital and Norton Hospital all are recognized as having ACC Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI accreditation.
  • Norton Healthcare has the most facilities across the city of Louisville with the ability treat a life-threatening heart attack.
  • You have access to more than 100 physicians and advanced practice providers with specialized training and experience in a comprehensive range of conditions and treatments.
  • Patients can make appointments at 28 locations in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Telecardiology is offered at more than 30 sites in the region.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital, a key location for Norton Heart & Vascular Institute services, has been recognized with a HeartCare Center National Distinction of Excellence year after year by the American College of Cardiology. This is the only hospital in Louisville to be recognized for this distinction.
  • U.S. News & World Report 2023-24 Best Hospitals ranked Norton Healthcare’s adult-service hospitals in Louisville as high performing in heart attack, heart failure, aortic valve surgery and heart bypass surgery.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital earned ventricular assist device (VAD) accreditation from DNV – Healthcare and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
  • Communicate with your health care provider, renew prescriptions, get lab results and more through your free Norton MyChart account.

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