What is an LVAD?
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With national heart transplant wait times ranging from days to years, many patients look to Mechanical Circulatory Support (MCS) as a bridge to transplantation. LVADs are also used to help your heart work better if you are not eligible for a heart transplant, also known as destination therapy (DT). MCS devices, also known as Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs) or Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADs), support heart function and blood flow. Here in Louisiana, no one has implanted more of these life-saving devices than The John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute at Ochsner Medical Center – Jefferson Highway.
Best in Class
Ochsner, home to the only comprehensive heart failure program in the state, is Louisiana’s largest LVAD implanting site and the only LVAD center with a Joint Commission DT Certification.
Our VAD program is ranked as a Top Five volume implant center in the nation for 2017 and 2018.
Ochsner is the second highest enrollment center in the nation, out of 70 centers, for enrolling patients in the MOMENTUM 3 Clinical Trial. The Heartmate III LVAD, the device in this trial, is revolutionizing mechanical assist device options for destination therapy patients (non-heart transplant candidates).
Since the inception of our program, Ochsner has implanted over 500 LVADs while delivering outstanding, best-in-class clinical outcomes for our patients.
Our expertise and quality make us one of the premier LVAD centers – not only in the region but nationwide.
A History of Success
Ochsner has a long history as a leader in the field of mechanical circulatory support. We were one of just twenty centers designated as a "Center for Destination Therapy" for the HeartMate® I Ventricular Assist System. What’s more, we have experience with the Syncardia Total Artificial Heart (TAH), Heartmate II, Heartmate III and Heartware devices. Your surgeon will decide on the best pump type to fit your individual needs.
Visit www.mylvad.com for more information and watch videos of others who have received a VAD.
At Ochsner, we pride ourselves on developing unique patient-provider partnerships that serve your best interests and personal goals. Our team includes world-class cardiovascular surgeons and advanced heart failure cardiologists. They work closely with nurse practitioners, physician assistants, VAD coordinators, a VAD assistant, a biomed engineer, social workers, financial coordinators, physical therapists, clinical pharmacists, palliative care, occupational therapists and dieticians. Together, they will become your care team family, providing personalized care unmatched anywhere else.
Schedule an Appointment Today
To make an appointment with our Heart Failure and Transplant Department, call 504-842-4721. You can also request an appointment through MyOchsner.
How an LVAD Works
The LVAD system has parts that work both inside and outside of your body. Inside, a mechanical pump is attached to the left side of the heart. Outside, a controller, batteries, and drive-line help to power and control the heart pump. LVADs recipients often find they have more energy than ever and can get back to doing the things they’ve always enjoyed.
The LVAD Journey
Before receiving an LVAD, you will go through a series of consultations and testing to determine your candidacy. You will also receive psychosocial and financial counseling in addition to LVAD education. You and your caregivers will have every opportunity to learn and ask questions about the procedure itself and what to expect afterwards.
The surgery to implant an LVAD usually takes between four to six hours and is done under general anesthesia at Ochsner’s Main Campus. Most patients feel better shortly after surgery due to increased blood flow.
The Hospital Stay
After your surgery, you can expect to stay at Ochsner for two to eight weeks. It all depends on the pace of your recovery. During that time, our team will help you increase your activity through intensive physical and occupational therapy) and you may participate in our cardiac rehabilitation program. You and your caregivers will learn how to take care of you and properly clean and care for your device.
Ochsner’s Peer Support Group
Our LVAD peer support group provides a wonderful opportunity for you and your caregivers to meet others on the LVAD journey. Come share your common experiences and learn from one another as you discuss both the rewards and challenges of life with the LVAD. Learn more.
Ochsner has been a research center from day one. Over the years, our patients have benefitted from our participation in clinical trials, including those relating to mechanical circulatory support. Ask your physician for more information.
The LVAD Basics
Q: What does LVAD stand for?
A: LVAD stands for Left Ventricular Assist Device.
Q: What does an LVAD do?
A: When the heart is too weak to pump blood on its own, a LVAD circulates blood throughout the body.
Q: Are there other names for LVADs?
A: Sometimes LVADs are called "heart pumps", "VADs”. They are also called mechanical circulatory devices.
Q: Is an LVAD an artificial heart?
A: No. The device attaches to the heart and is designed to assist – or take over – the pumping function of the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle).
Q: Who is a candidate for an LVAD?
A: Patients with advanced heart failure who have exhausted the limitations of medical therapies. Patients with new onset heart failure from various reasons such a virus or postpartum cardiomyopathy. Consult a physician to find out if you are a candidate for LVAD therapy.
Q: How does an LVAD help someone with heart failure?
A: With an LVAD, blood flow will be restored throughout your body, helping you to breathe more easily and feel less tired. Your organ function will improve and you’ll generally feel more energetic. The goal is to make it possible for you to resume activities you were unable to do before the surgery.
Q: What does it mean when they say an LVAD is used as a Bridge to Transplant?
A: LVADs may be used to support patients and improve their quality of life while they wait for a donor heart to become available.
Q: How can an LVAD help me if I’m not eligible for a transplant?
A: LVADs can be used as a permanent option for patients who are not eligible for heart transplantation. This is known as "Destination Therapy."
Surgery & Recovery
Q: How long does the surgery take?
A: Approximately four to six hours.
Q: Will I feel better after surgery?
A: Because of increased blood flow, most patients feel better soon after surgery.
Q: What can I expect after my surgery?
A: Depending upon your condition, you may remain in ICU for between several days to 2 weeks. The complete hospital stay for those receiving LVADs generally varies from 14 to 42 days.
Q: Will I be able to go home with the LVAD?
A: Patients with durable devices can be discharged home.
Q: Will I need help once I get home?
A: Our team will show your spouse and/or caregivers how to change the dressing around the drive line that connects the device to its power source. You and your families must also learn how to maintain and care for the device (cleaning, changing batteries and so forth). You will need someone to drive you to your appointments for several weeks.
Q: Are there any complications I should look for?
A: Possible complications can include bleeding, infection, and, in some cases, stroke.
Q: Can I go back to work?
A: This is something to discuss with your physicians. It all depends on the type of device you have, your overall health and the kind of work you do.
Q: What kind of physical therapy can I expect?
A: Your therapy might include walking on treadmill, climbing stairs, and doing light weights and upper body exercises.
Life with an LVAD
Q: Does wearing a device cause any pain?
A: No, but if you experience pain or redness from the dressing tape, or new drainage from the site, call your physician immediately. This is not normal.
Q: How active will I be with an LVAD?
A: With the exception of activities that require submerging the device in water, contact sports or running, most patients return to their daily activities. Many patients find they can resume activities they haven't been able to do for a long time.
Q: Will I have to remain on medications?
A: After surgery, you will resume your usual cardiac medications, such as ACE inhibitors, diuretics and betablockers. If you are not already taking an anticoagulant (a blood thinner), it will be added to your regimen. Your doctor might also put you on a multivitamin, iron and potassium supplements, and an anti-reflux medication.
Q: Will it be obvious to people that I have an LVAD?
A: Wearable systems can be worn under or over your clothing.
Q: Is there anything I can’t do?
A: Since you can’t get your pump wet, swimming is not allowed. You will not be able to sit in a bathtub. Plus, you should avoid sports or activities that require jumping or running. They could dislodge the driveline.
Q: How long do these devices last?
A: It varies. Some can support a patient from up to ten years or more.
If you or a family member has an LVAD, chances are you can benefit from the experiences of others who have learned how to manage life with the device. Ochsner is home to an active patient support group which provides both education and invaluable support to patients and their families. View Support Group dates and information.
American Heart Association - "Devices and Surgical Procedures to Treat Heart Failure"
National Institutes of Health (NIH) - Overview of the ventricular assist device, also known as a heart pump.
Ochsner Outcomes in Cardiology - General information regarding Ochsner's performance in comparison to national benchmarks.