Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) for Heart Failure
A ventricular assist device (VAD), also known as a heart
pump, is a mechanical device that helps pump blood from the heart to the rest
of your body.
A VAD can be implanted in the chest
or worn outside the body. If it is implanted, surgery is done to place it in
the chest area. The pump part of the VAD is placed in a small space in your
upper abdomen. Batteries that power the pump are usually worn on a belt or
pouch outside your body. After the VAD has been implanted, your doctor will
make another small incision in your side to connect the electrical wires that
power the device.
A VAD can help pump blood from the left side,
right side, or both sides of your heart, depending on your type of heart
A VAD helps pump blood when the heart is not able to pump
enough blood on its own. It removes blood from your heart and pumps it to the
rest of your body. This way, most of the blood that your heart would normally
pump is pumped by the VAD instead. Most VADs have an automatic mode that
adjusts to different levels of activity. For example, if you begin to walk, your VAD can increase how much blood it pumps.
A VAD can be used as a temporary
or long-term treatment for severe heart failure. A VAD may be used for only a short
time if a person's heart gets strong again and is able to pump blood well
enough by itself. VADs are typically used to help people who are waiting for a
heart transplant. In some cases, VADs can be used long-term along with other
heart failure treatments like medicines.
VADs used before a heart transplant can help people live until they receive the transplant.
VADs used for long-term therapy may help lower the risk of death compared to medical treatment alone. And a VAD might help a person feel better and be able to do better with daily activities.
Risks from VADs include problems like stroke, excessive bleeding, infection, device malfunction, and blood clotting.
These complications may need hospital care.
Most people with a VAD feel better and have a better quality of life. They can be active, drive, work, be social, and enjoy hobbies.
If you have a VAD, you will have a team of specialists who will help you. They will see you regularly at follow-up visits. They will teach you how to care for your VAD at home and how to prevent problems. Self-care that you might do at home includes checking the device and changing the dressing.
Some people decide to turn off the VAD near the end of life. Making this decision can be easier after you, your doctor, and your loved ones have talked about what you can expect from your life now and in the future. When you schedule your next doctor visit, ask if you can have time to talk about your end-of-life wishes.
Other Works Consulted
Givertz MM (2011). Ventricular assist devices: Important information for patients and families. Circulation, 124(12): e305–e311.
Joyce D, et al. (2011). Surgical treatment of heart failure and mechanical ventricular support. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst’s The Heart, 13th ed., vol. 1, pp. 798–809. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Mehra MR, Griffith BP (2012). Assisted circulation in the treatment of heart failure. In RO Bonow et al., eds., Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed., vol. 1, pp. 617–626. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Slaughter MS, et al. (2009). Advanced heart failure treated with continuous-flow left ventricular assist device. New England Journal of Medicine, 361(23): 2241–2251.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, ElectrophysiologySpecialist Medical ReviewerStephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015
Current as of:
February 20, 2015
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.