Tests & Procedures > Cardiac Surgery > Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

The surgeons and cardiologists at PinnacleHealth Cardiovascular Institute are experienced in the use of both transcutaneous (external) and implantable VADs.

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Heart, Vascular & Lung Care

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical pump that's used to support heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts. The device takes blood from a lower chamber of the heart and helps pump it to the body and vital organs, just as a healthy heart would.

The surgeons and cardiologists at PinnacleHealth Cardiovascular Institute are experienced in the use of both transcutaneous (external) and implantable VADs.

A VAD can help support your heart if:

  • You're not eligible for a heart transplant. (A VAD can be a long-term solution to help your heart work better.)
  • You're waiting for a heart transplant
  • Your heart's function can become normal again. If your heart failure is temporary, your doctor may recommend implanting a VAD until your heart is healthy enough to pump blood on its own again.

How does a VAD work?

  • A VAD has several basic parts. A small tube carries blood out of your heart into a pump. Another tube carries blood from the pump to your blood vessels, which deliver the blood to your body.
  • A VAD also has a power source that connects to a control unit. This unit monitors the VAD's functions. It gives warnings, or alarms, if the power is low or the device isn't working well.
  • Some VADs pump blood like the heart does, with a pumping action. Other VADs keep up a continuous flow of blood. With a continuous flow VAD, you might not have a normal pulse, but your body is getting the blood it needs.

Types of Ventricular Assist Devices

VADs have two basic designs. A transcutaneous VAD has its pump and power source located outside of the body. Tubes connect the pump to the heart through small holes in the abdomen. This type of VAD might be used for short-term support during or after surgery.

An implantable VAD has its pump located inside of the body and its power source located outside of the body. A cable connects the pump to the power source through a small hole in the abdomen.

Implantable VADs are used mainly for people who are waiting for heart transplants or as a long-term solution for people who can't have heart transplants.

The design and type of VAD your doctor recommends will depend on your overall health, how long you'll likely need the device, and other factors.