Ventricle Assist Device (VAD) is a mechanical pump that is implanted in the heart to help a weakened heart pump blood to the different parts of the body. These devices can be implanted in the right ventricle, left ventricle, or both ventricles of the heart. A VAD that supports only the left side of the heart is called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). An LVAD, sometimes called a "bridge to transplant", can be surgically implanted to help improve the functioning of a weakened heart. These devices are available at heart transplant centers.
The LVAD can be used as a bridge-to-transplant, to support the weakened heart until a donor is available for a heart transplant. The LVAD can also be used as destination therapy, to provide long-term support for patients with end-stage heart failure and are not eligible for transplant.
The most common type of LVAD possesses two tubes attached to a pump, which is placed in the upper part of the abdomen. One tube is inserted into the left ventricle and carries blood from the ventricle into the pump. The pump then transports the blood to the aorta, the main artery leaving the left ventricle. The pump's other tube is guided through the wall of the abdomen, and is connected to the pump's battery and control system, which are placed outside the body.
Modern LVADs are portable and are implanted for a duration of a few weeks to months. Patients on LVAD support can have a satisfactory quality of life until a donor heart is available for transplant.
Studies have demonstrated that LVAD can normalize the heart function in a few patients with heart failure, obviating the need for transplantation.
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