What is a left ventricular assist device?

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a mechanical “heart pump” that is surgically implanted through open heart surgery in patients with heart failure. The pump is inserted into the left ventricle to help distribute blood throughout your body. The device does not replace the heart, it pumps along with the patient’s own heart. It helps the pumping chamber of the heart (left ventricle) pump blood out of the ventricle to the aorta and the rest of your body.  The pump is implanted during a procedure in the hospital. The LVAD helps patients with heart failure live longer and return to things they were doing before they were limited by heart failure.


Who might need an LVAD?

Patients awaiting a heart transplant (Bridge to Transplant)
Some patients with heart failure may be candidates for a heart transplant. An LVAD may be implanted temporarily to help support the failing heart while they wait for a transplant. Once the donor heart is available, the LVAD will be removed.

Patients eligible for a heart transplant due to age or other factors (Destination Therapy)
Some patients with heart failure may not be candidates for heart transplant. An LVAD would be permanently implanted for the remainder of their lives. This long-term option can add years to the patient’s life.

Patients with temporary heart failure (Bridge to Recovery)
Some patients with heart failure might need temporary support from an LVAD while their heart is healing from an injury or illness.

NBC Connecticut: Hartford HealthCare's LVAD Program Gives Survivors of Heart Failure Options

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Types of LVADs

LVAD HM3 Pump MRLong Term or Durable LVADs
The current LVAD device that we implant at Hartford Hospital is known as the HeartMate 3. This is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We do continue to support patients on other devices such as the HeartWare and HeartMate II.

Short Term or Temporary LVADs
For patients with respiratory and/or cardiac failure, time is indeed a matter of life and death. That’s why an innovative procedure known as Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), is helping to give the human body the time it needs to heal.

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How does the LVAD work?

HeartMate-3-LVADThe LVAD has four main parts:

The pump: The pump is inserted into the left ventricle through open heart surgery. A tube then delivers this blood from the pump to the aorta. The pump works by continuously pumping blood into the aorta.

The driveline: A thin cord that will exit the body from the abdomen to connect the internal pump to the controller outside of the body. A sterile dressing will cover this site.

The controller: A small control system outside of the body that runs the pumps and communicates alarms and battery life.

The Power Sources:  Rechargeable batteries or a mobile power unit (MPU) that plugs into an electrical outlet provides power to the pump and allows the device to operate. A power source must be connected at all times for the pump to run.

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Evaluation and Diagnostic Testing

If you are a candidate for an LVAD, an evaluation will be completed by our multidisciplinary team. The team works together to determine if an LVAD is the best treatment option for you and will ultimately improve your quality of life. The team will thoroughly review your medical records as well as schedule in-person or telephone appointments for additional consults. In addition, you will also undergo diagnostic testing and imaging and meet with the LVAD coordinators for an educational overview to introduce the device. The evaluation can be completed inpatient if you are hospitalized or on an outpatient basis.

To decide if an LVAD is the right treatment option for you, the team will consider:

  • The severity of your heart failure
  • How well your heart is working
  • Your ability to take blood thinners
  • Your social support system
  • Your mental health and ability to care for an LVAD
  • Any other medical conditions you have

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Our Team

If you’re a candidate for an LVAD, here’s a closer look at our team of specialists who will work with you to help develop your plan of care:

Cardiac Surgeons
Our surgeon will meet with you as part of your evaluation to discuss the risks and benefits of surgery. They will discuss how this decision will affect you and your lifestyle.
Advanced Heart Failure Cardiologist
Our cardiologists will provide medical management and guidance of your cardiac disease. They will present your case to the team during a multidisciplinary meeting to determine if you are a candidate for an LVAD. The cardiologist will continue to manage and provide follow up care.
LVAD Advanced Nurse Practitioner
Our LVAD nurse practitioner is in continuous communication with the LVAD coordinators. They will be involved in the outpatient setting after implantation when you are seen in the clinic. The nurse practitioner will see you during some of your clinic visits as well as prescribe and adjust your heart failure medications, interpret labs, make referrals to other specialties and prescribe additional services as needed.
LVAD Nurse Coordinators
Our LVAD coordinators will meet with you during the evaluation process to introduce the device and go through an overview with you and your support persons. They will provide education before and after the surgery. The LVAD coordinators will be with you throughout the entire evaluation process and post-op course if you are a candidate for an LVAD. They will help assist with communication between the physicians, you and your family.
Social Worker
Our social worker will evaluate your support system and determine your ability to cope with the stress of an LVAD as well as the ability to follow the treatment plan. Our program requires primary and backup support persons.
Registered Dietitians
Our dietitians will perform a nutritional assessment and make recommendations for healthy eating to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. They also will discuss diet interactions with the blood thinner you will be on.
Palliative Care
Our palliative care providers will provide support to you and your family throughout this process. They will discuss your goals of care and goals to improve your quality of life.
Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy
Our therapists will assess your mobility, dexterity, and balance. They will evaluate if you would be able to manage the device and make connections.
Financial Coordinator
Our financial coordinator will review your insurance coverage and benefits related to the LVAD surgery.

Meet our LVAD specialists:

Sabeena Arora

4.9

Cardiovascular Medicine

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute
Hartford, CT 06106
More Locations
Middletown, CT 06457
Norwich, CT 06360
Jennifer Bell

5

Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute
Hartford, CT 06106
More Locations
Bridgeport, CT 06606
Jason Gluck

 

Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Hartford Hospital
Hartford, CT 06106
More Locations
Hartford, CT 06106
Abhishek Jaiswal

4.9

Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Hartford Hospital
Hartford, CT 06106
More Locations
Bridgeport, CT 06606
Hartford, CT 06106
Hamden, CT 06517
Fairfield, CT 06824
Xingchen Mai

4.7

Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute
Hartford, CT 06106
More Locations
Norwich, CT 06360
Nirav Patel

 

Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Hartford Hospital
Hartford, CT 06106
More Locations
Hamden, CT 06517
Norwich, CT 06360
Joseph Radojevic

 

Cardiovascular Medicine

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute
Hartford, CT 06106
Andrew Scatola

4.9

Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute
Hartford, CT 06106
More Locations
Hartford, CT 06106
Bloomfield, CT 06002
Winsted, CT 06098
Dawn Surprenant

 

Cardiovascular Medicine

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute
Congestive Heart Failure Clnic
Hartford, CT 06106
Peter Vlismas

 

Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute
Hartford, CT 06106
More Locations
Bridgeport, CT 06606

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Benefits of LVAD?

Improved Quality of Life
The LVAD helps patients with advanced heart failure take part in activities that were not possible before the implant. Our patients travel, exercise, return to work, and participate in activities they otherwise would not be able to.

Greater Life Expectancy
Patients with advanced heart failure who have an LVAD tend to live longer than those are treated with medical therapy alone.

Fewer Symptoms of Heart Failure
The LVAD can help reduce symptoms of heart failure such as extra fluid, shortness of breath and fatigue.

Decreased Hospitalizations
With reduced symptoms of heart failure, this helps patients feel better and avoid hospitalizations.

Possible risks of LVAD

  • Stroke
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Right heart failure
  • Device malfunction

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Surgery and Recovery

HeartMate 3 System MRWhat to expect:
The cardiac surgeon will discuss the surgery including risks and benefits with you during your consultation. Our cardiac surgeon will be implanting the LVAD through open heart surgery at Hartford Hospital. The duration of the surgery can last between four to six hours and require general anesthesia. You will be placed on a cardiopulmonary bypass machine which will provide oxygen and blood flow to your organs during the surgery.  After surgery, you will be taken to the Cardiothoracic ICU where you will be closely monitored while you recover from surgery.

Every patient’s recovery is different, so the amount of time you will be hospitalized varies based on individual needs. A typical hospital stay is about 2.5-3 weeks or longer to recover. Our goal is to help you recover as quickly and safely as possible. Depending on your mobility and physical endurance, you may require additional rehabilitation at a rehab facility. This will be determined by our team. If you are transitioned home, you will have visiting nurses and physical/occupational therapy services.

How long can you be supported by a LVAD?
The amount of time patients are supported by an LVAD varies. It can depend on the type of LVAD you have and whether it’s being used as permanent or temporary support.

How will I know how to care for my LVAD?
The LVAD coordinators will provide extensive and thorough education to patients and family members on managing the device and equipment, learning the alarms, and performing the sterile dressing change. You will learn how to trouble shoot alarms and potential emergency situations.

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Additional Information and patient education

Download the following brochures

MCS Patient EducationHEARTMATE 3™
patient education
MCS Patient GuideHEARTMATE 3™
patient guide

Read the following news stories

For a referral or for more information

  • Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute

    85 Jefferson Street
    Suite 216, 2nd floor
    Hartford, CT 06106

  • Phone: 860.972.1212

  • Fax: 860.545.3269