Congestive Heart Failure Home > Ventricular Assist Device

A ventricular assist device aids the pumping action of a weakened heart ventricle (a major pumping chamber of the heart). This device can partially relieve the symptoms of severe heart failure, such as breathlessness and fatigue. Although these devices were originally meant to be used short periods of time, some are now used for long-term therapy.

What Is a Ventricular Assist Device?

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical pump that helps a heart that's too weak to pump blood through the body. It is sometimes referred to as "a bridge to transplant," since it can help a patient survive until a heart transplant can be performed.
 
A ventricular assist device aids the pumping action of a weakened heart ventricle (a major pumping chamber of the heart).
 

When Is It Used?

VADs were originally intended for short-term use to support failing hearts until donor hearts became available. Some ventricular assist devices are now used for long-term (destination) therapy in severe heart failure patients who are not candidates for heart transplants.
 

How Does a Ventricular Assist Device Work?

A ventricular assist device does not replace the heart. Instead, it works with the patient's own heart to pump sufficient blood throughout the body.
 
The ventricular assist device consists of a pump, a control system, and an energy supply. Some ventricular assist devices rely on a battery for their energy supply; others use compressed air (pneumatic). The energy supply and the control system are located outside the body; the pump can be either inside or outside the body.
 
In a ventricular assist device, blood flows from the ventricles into a pump. A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) receives blood from the left ventricle and delivers it to the aorta -- the large artery that carries the blood from the heart to the rest of the body. A right ventricular assist device (RVAD) receives blood from the right ventricle and delivers it to the pulmonary artery -- the artery that carries blood from the heart to the lungs.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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