LVADs and Other Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs)

For some patients, conventional treatment cannot effectively relieve the symptoms of heart failure. In these cases, your doctor may recommend mechanical circulatory support therapy. This includes a variety of devices that are able to assist your heart in pumping  blood to the rest of your body, improving circulation to vital organs.

Ventricular assist devices (VADs) are among the many options available for mechanical circulatory support at the Center for Circulatory Support at the University of Michigan. These devices have been used for well over a decade to improve survival and quality of life for patients with advanced heart failure.

These devices are most commonly used to support the left side of the heart (LVADs) and may be used to support the right side of the heart (RVADs). If both sides of the heart require support, the Total Artificial Heart (TAH) may be used. 

How LVADs Work

LVADs work by pumping blood from the left ventricle (lower part of the heart) and moving it forward into the aorta, the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. These pumps (LVAD and RVAD) assist the weakened heart muscle, they do not replace the heart muscle. The pump is implanted inside your body. A driveline connects to the pump and exits through a small site in your abdomen. This driveline is connected to a small computer, called the controller, which runs the pump.

VADs are used in patients with advanced heart failure who meet certain medical criteria. Today’s implantable VADs are smaller, lighter and more durable than earlier VADs.

They can be used as a bridge to transplant (BTT) for patients who are waiting for a heart transplant. If an organ has not become available, this device can be implanted temporarily until a heart does become available. A VAD can also be used as destination therapy (DT) in patients who may not be eligible for a heart transplant, but have advanced heart failure. For destination therapy patients, these pumps are implanted permanently as long-term support to extend and improve the patient’s quality of life. Patients implanted with a VAD as destination therapy have survived for longer than 8 years on the device.   

VADs and the University of Michigan Center for Circulatory Support

The University of Michigan Center for Circulatory Support is one of only a few institutions worldwide that has access to many investigational and FDA-approved mechanical circulatory support devices. The long term implantable devices include: HeartMate II, Thoratec IVAD, HeartWare,and CardioWest TAH-t.  Our temporary, short-term devices include: Ambiomed, BVS5000, Centrimag, Impella, and TandemHeart.

The wide variety of devices allows your doctor to choose the most appropriate device based on your individual needs. Our physicians are actively participating in several clinical trials evaluating new mechanical circulatory devices, in addition to developing new types of devices. University of Michigan is home to one of the largest VAD programs in the country. Since the program began in the late 1990’s, we have implanted over 580 long-term devices. In 2012, 63 VADs were implanted and we are currently following 130 ongoing long- term outpatients.

For more information on clinical research involving ventricular assist devices and systems, visit our LVAD Research page. For information on VAD clinical research opportunities, visit the UM Clinical Studies website at umclinicalstudies.org.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment to discuss your need for an LVAD or other vetricular assist device, contact us toll-free at 888-287-1082 or email us at CVCCallCtr@med.umich.edu. To find out what to expect when you call us, visit our Make an Appointment page.