LVADs and Other Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs)

What is a Vascular Assist Device (VAD)?

Vascular Assist Devices (VADs) are a type of mechanical circulatory device used to treat heart failure. VADs work by assisting your heart in pumping blood to the rest of your body, improving circulation to vital organs. Your doctor may recommend a VAD when conventional methods such as lifestyle changes and medication are not effective. These devices have been used for well over a decade to improve survival and quality of life for patients with advanced heart failure.

VADs are most commonly used to support the left side of the heart (Left Ventricular Assist Devices or LVADs) but may also 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.

Today’s implantable VADs are smaller, lighter and more durable than earlier VADs, and the wide variety of options allows your physician to choose the most appropriate device for your individual needs. See the Types of VADs page page for images and descriptions of VADs.

View or download our Mechanical Circulatory Assist Devices patient information guide PDF.

How Do VADs 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.

How Are VADs Used?

VADs are used in patients with advanced heart failure who meet certain medical criteria. 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.

The Michigan Medicine VAD Program

The Michigan Medicine VAD Program has been awarded the Disease Specific Care Advanced Ventricular Assist Device Certification from The Joint Commission. In addition, the program is one of only a few institutions worldwide that has access to many investigational and FDA-approved mechanical circulatory support systems including the HeartMate II, Heartmate 3, HeartWare HVAD, and Syncardia TAH devices. See the Types of VADs page page for images and descriptions of a variety of VADs.

Our physicians are actively participating in several clinical trials evaluating new mechanical circulatory devices, in addition to developing new types of devices. For more information on cardiac clinical research opportunities involving ventricular assist devices and systems, please visit UMHealthResearch.org.

Patient Resources

For more Patient Information Guides on a variety of cardiovascular topics, visit our Patient Information Guides page.

LVAD Support Group

The Adult Heart Transplant & LVAD Support Group is open to pre- and post-heart transplant patients and their families, as well as those who have LVADs or who are considering getting one. The group offers social and emotional support as well as educational information.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment to discuss your need for an LVAD or other ventricular 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.