Heart failure is a major chronic condition in the United States. It may require long periods hospitalization and rehabilitation. It is also a leading cause of death.
One type, called left-sided failure, is caused by a progressive failure of the left ventricle—the large, muscular chamber of the heart that pumps oxygen-rich blood out of the heart to the rest of the body. This form heart failure is often treated with medications and/or surgery. One surgical treatment, a heart transplant, can take years of waiting for a donor.
Another option is called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). The LVAD is a device that takes over the work of the left ventricle, which may eliminate the need for a transplant. Here is some information on this technology.
A heart assist pump, can be permanently implanted in people who:
An LVAD has 2 tubes attached to an electric pump. The pump is placed in the upper abdomen. One tube goes into the left ventricle and pulls blood from the ventricle into the pump. The pump then sends blood into the aorta (the large blood vessel leaving the heart), thereby doing the work the weakened heart can no longer do. The pump's other tube is directed through the wall of the abdomen to the outside of the body where it is attached to the pump's control system.
The evidence for the benefits of LVAD are mixed, depending on how it is used. The outcome is more uncertain if it is used as a bridge to transplantation in patients rather than in patients who are not eligible for transplantation. The survival rate and quality of life is much better in patients who are not eligible for transplant surgery.
Implanting the device requires major surgery on those who are already seriously ill. Some of the more severe complications may include bleeding that requires additional surgery, infection, stroke, and right ventricular failure. It is also possible to experience problems with the device.
All this does not mean however, that it is a bad option. Technology in medicine is always improving and it may be something that works for you. If you have severe heart failure, you may want to discuss this option with your doctor.
American Heart Association
US Food and Drug Administration
Heart & Stroke Foundation
Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114099/Heart-failure-with-reduced-ejection-fraction. Updated October 11, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
Implantable medical devices for heart failure. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/PreventionTreatmentofHeartFailure/Implantable-Medical-Devices-for-Heart-Failure_UCM_306354_Article.jsp#.WA4mvU0VAdU. Updated October 11, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
Mechanical circulatory support for heart failure. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T483099/Mechanical-circulatory-support-for-heart-failure. Updated March 14, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
2/1/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T483099/Mechanical-circulatory-support-for-heart-failure: Peura JL, Colvin-Adams M, Francis GS, et al. Recommendations for the use of mechanical circulatory support: device strategies and patient selection: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012;126(22):2648-2667.
Last reviewed October 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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