Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) and Mechanical Circulatory Support (MCS)

Proven, effective treatment for advanced heart failure

About LVAD and MCS

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a type of mechanical circulatory support (MCS) used to treat advanced heart failure. Surgeons place the LVAD in your chest and attach it to your heart during open-heart surgery. Powered by a battery pack worn outside the body, the LVAD pumps blood through your system to help increase circulation.

The primary goal of an LVAD is to improve your quality of life, help you be more active, and ease many symptoms caused by advanced heart failure, such as fatigue, palpitations (abnormal heartbeat) or dyspnea (shortness of breath).

Candidates for LVAD

If you have advanced heart failure and other medical or surgical options have not sufficiently managed your condition, your surgeon may recommend you receive an LVAD. An LVAD can treat both ischemic cardiomyopathies (weakened heart muscle due to heart attack or coronary artery disease) and non-ischemic cardiomyopathies (damaged heart muscle unrelated to coronary artery disease.

Other candidates to receive an LVAD include:

  • People waiting for a heart transplant.
  • People with factors making heart transplant surgery too risky, such as advanced age or additional health conditions.

What to Expect During an LVAD

Your LVAD open-heart surgery will take place in the hospital, and you will be under general anesthesia (fully asleep) for the procedure. An intravenous (IV) line inserted into your arm will provide medicine and fluids throughout your procedure.

During the surgery, your doctor will make an incision (cut) in your chest to access the area surrounding your heart. They will then connect the LVAD between the left heart ventricle (chamber) and your heart’s major blood vessel (aorta). The LVAD can then pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the rest of your body.

Your surgeon will use a second incision to connect the LVAD to a battery pack and control device, which you will wear under your clothes. Once your care team has closed your incisions, they will move you to a recovery room.

What to Expect After an LVAD

After LVAD surgery, you will be in the hospital for 14 to 20 days. During this time, you will continue to be closely monitored by the heart care team. You will learn how to use your LVAD, including how to go about your daily activities with the device. You will also work on getting out of bed and walking more and more as you heal and recover.

Once you return home, you will need to take it easy for several weeks. However, after you have fully recovered, the LVAD can greatly help improve your quality of life. Talk to your doctor before resuming activities, but in many cases, you may be able to get back to the things you love, including walking, running, jogging and other types of exercise.

You can expect to have regular follow-up visits with your surgeon and cardiologist to ensure the LVAD is working as expected. Make sure to ask your surgeon any questions you have during these appointments.