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What is ventricular assist device placement?

Ventricular assist device (VAD) placement is surgery to treat advanced heart failure. In advanced heart failure, the heart is too weak to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. A VAD helps your heart pump. Your surgeon places the pump component inside your chest and connects it to a power source and computer controller that remains outside your body. VAD placement can improve your quality of life and reduce or resolve your symptoms.

A VAD has a few basic parts. The size and specific components will vary depending on the specific device. In general, VADs have a pumping unit that is inside the body, and a power source and computer controller outside the body. Tubes carry blood to the pump. The external components typically connect to the pump inside the body through a cable. The cable usually enters the body through a small hole in the abdomen.

VAD placement is major surgery that has risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having VAD placement. 

Types of VADs

The types of VADs include:

  • Left ventricular assist device (LVAD) helps the left ventricle pump blood to the aorta and out to the body. This is the most common type of VAD. 
  • Right ventricular assist device (RVAD) helps the right ventricle pump blood to the lungs. This type of VAD is usually for temporary use.
  • Biventricular assist device (BIVAD) helps both the left and right ventricles pump blood.
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

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Medical References

Givertz MM. Ventricular Assist Devices: Important Information for Patients and Families. Circulation. 2011; 124: e305-e311. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/124/12/e305.full. Accessed July 3, 2013.
Off-Pump Insertion of the Jarvik 2000 Left Ventricular Assist Device. Cardiothoracic Surgery Network. http://www.ctsnet.org/sections/clinicalresources/adultcardiac/expert_tech-25.html. Accessed July 3, 2013.
Ventricular Assist Devices. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/disorders/heartfailure/lvad_devices.aspx. Accessed July 3, 2013.
Ventricular Assist Devices. University of Chicago. http://www.uchospitals.edu/specialties/heart/services/heart-failure/assist-devices.html. Accessed July 3, 2013.
What Is a Ventricular Assist Device? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/vad/. Accessed July 3, 2013.

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