Do you suffer from a serious heart condition? Are you waiting for a heart transplant? If you answered yes to those questions, you should talk to your physician about a ventricular assist device.
What is a Ventricular Assist Device?
A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical device that is used to assist with the function of a failing heart. The VADs primary function is to help pump blood from the lower chambers of the heart to the rest of your body.
Who needs a VAD?
A VAD can be of benefit to you if you suffer from a heart condition. VADs help your heart to become strong enough to effectively pump blood on its own. It may be necessary to have a VAD implanted as a long-term treatment if you have heart failure and you are not a good candidate for a heart transplant.
A VAD can help support your heart:
- During or after surgery, until your heart recovers – Right Ventricular Assist Devices (RVADs) are often temporarily implanted after some heart surgeries. An RVAD can help keep blood flowing from the right ventricle to your lungs.
- While you're waiting for a heart transplant - VAD can keep blood pumping despite a diseased heart and will be removed when your new heart is implanted - When a VAD is implanted while you're waiting for a heart transplant, it's referred to as a "bridge to transplant."
- If you're not eligible for a heart transplant - A VAD can improve your quality of life. When a VAD is implanted as a permanent treatment for heart failure, it's referred to as destination therapy.
What happens if my condition is worse than normal?
If VADs can't help your heart, another treatment option your doctor may consider is a total artificial heart (TAH). This device replaces the two ventricles of your heart. A total artificial heart is difficult to implant and can cause serious complications, it's only used in a small number of people.
What are the risks?
Getting a ventricular assist device (VAD) involves some serious risks. These risks include:
- Blood clots
- Device malfunctions
- Right heart failure (a possible risk of LVADs)
Thanks to newer VAD models, some of the most serious risks have decreased.