What is a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)?

A Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) is a mechanical device that circulates blood through the body when the heart is too weak to pump blood adequately on its own. It is designed to supplement the pumping function of the heart. It is surgically attached to the left ventricle and to the aorta, the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to the entire body. An external, wearable system that includes a small controller and two batteries is attached by an external driveline. The wearable system is either worn under or on top of clothing.

A LVAD device implanted around a person's heart

This is what an LVAD looks like when implanted.

The type of LVAD used at Largo Medical Center is a continuous flow, implantable pump. It is surgically implanted with one end directly placed in the left side of the heart and the other end connected to the aorta (large blood vessel that is attached to the heart). It is then attached to a driveline, which is tunneled through the abdomen and exits through the abdominal wall. This driveline attaches to a controller and is powered by either AC adaption or batteries.

Patients suffering with advanced heart failure who have exhausted medical therapies may be candidates to receive an LVAD. This therapy is recommended by the American Association of Cardiology and the American Heart Association as a treatment option for advanced heart failure. Studies have shown that patients treated with an LVAD can live longer and enjoy an improved quality of life compared to medication management alone.

Largo Medical Center's Mechanical Circulatory Support Program will determine if you are a candidate for this therapy after an extensive evaluation process of laboratory and diagnostic tests. A team of nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers, palliative care team, nutritionist, and financial advisors will meet to review the results and determine if you meet criteria for this therapy. The LVAD used at Largo Medical Center is FDA approved for advanced heart failure patients. Not everyone with advanced heart failure is a good candidate for this treatment.

The LVAD is designed to restore blood flow throughout the body, enabling you to breathe more easily and have more energy. An LVAD can significantly reduce heart failure symptoms and improve your quality of life. You should be able to resume normal activities that you were unable to do prior to receiving the device.

LVADs can be used for three specific purposes

  • As a bridge to recovery: An LVAD can be used to support a patient that is experiencing heart failure that may reverse itself after temporary support, such as viral infections and post-partum heart disease, amongst others.
  • As a bridge to transplant: An LVAD can be used to support a patient until a donor heart becomes available.
  • As destination therapy: An LVAD can be implanted permanently for long-term therapy in patients with severe heart failure who are not candidates for heart transplantation.