Ventricular-assist device

Also known as: Long-term ventricular assist device, VAD, LVAD, Heart pump

A VAD is a mechanical heart pump that is surgically implanted in the body. The device helps a weak heart by pumping blood for the heart.

A tiny spinning rotor within the device drains blood from the heart and pumps the blood into the major artery of the body (the aorta).

heartmate pump
Reprinted with the permission of Thoratec Corporation
Although the pump is within the body, a thin tube (or driveline) exits the skin over the abdomen to connect the internal pump to an external controller.
See how a VAD works.

The VAD is implanted through an incision through your sternum (breast bone). A driveline, a tube that contains the electrical wire to run the pump, comes out of the skin on the left side of your abdomen. The pump is attached to your heart and takes the blood into the device and pumps it to the body through another tube attached to your aorta, the large artery leaving your heart. The VAD is powered by either batteries of wall power.

The VAD has four main parts:
heartmateii visual
Reprinted with the permission of Thoratec Corporation
  • The implanted blood pump
  • A tube that passes out of your body on the left side of your abdomen (driveline)
  • A small computer (controller) that controls the pump’s operation.
  • The external power source, which is either two batteries that last ten hours or the power module that plugs directly into standard wall power.

How is a VAD implanted?
Surgery to implant a VAD is similar to other forms of open-heart surgery and requires the opening of the chest and upper abdomen and use of a heart-lung bypass machine. Once the chest has been surgically opened, one end of the VAD is sewn into the tip of the heart, and the other end is sewn into the aorta. The driveline is tunneled under the abdomen and exits the skin.

Occassionally, other types of heart surgery (bypass surgery, valve surgery) are performed at the same time as the VAD is implanted. Surgery usually takes six to ten hours. After the surgery, patients recover in the intensive care unit for several days.

For patients with severe heart failure, standard medical treatments and lifestyle changes may not be enough to prevent severe symptoms or worsening of overall health. Providence Center for Advanced Heart Disease's experienced team of physicians and clinical professionals can offer eligible patients the latest therapies, including ventricular assist devices (VAD).

No matter what questions you may have about heart failure, we're here to help.

Ask An Expert

Ask an Expert: Artificial devices used in heart care

Q: What can you tell me about mechanical heart assist devices? Are these devices a practical option for treating heart failure?

Forms Instructions

Frequently Asked Questions about VAD

Answers for patients to frequently asked questions about ventricular assist devices (VAD).

Frequently Asked Questions about the HeartMate II VAD

Answers to frequently asked questions from referring physicians about the HeartMate II ventricular assist device therapy.

Center for Advanced Heart Disease LVAD Fax Referral Form

For non-ugent LVAD referrals, please use our convenient fax sheet. For urgent LVAD referrals, please call 503-216-1182.

Proprietary Health Article

Assist devices a viable alternative to heart transplant

For patients with systolic heart failure, an implanted ventricular assist device can improve quality of life and prolong survival. Here's how to learn if your patient is eligible. – By Jacob Abraham, M.D., medical director, and Gary Ott, M.D., surgical director, Providence Ventricular Assist Device Program

Who Should Get a VAD?

A presentation by Stuart D. Russell, M.D., chief of heart failure and transplantation, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Recommended Resource connects LVAD recipients, their loved ones and the medical professionals who care for them.