Left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is usually used to keep a patient alive until a suitable heart donor is found. A patient may stay alive for 5 and a half years with LVAD. As per research, 80–85% of patients are alive a year after having an LVAD placed and 70–75% of patients are alive for 2 years with an LVAD. Usually, patients without LVAD have a life expectancy of 12 months or less. The expected survival for people with an LVAD continues to improve with newer technology. Some patients have survived even up to 13 years.
What is a left ventricular assist device (LVAD)?
A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a type of a battery-operated, mechanical pump that is used in patients with end-stage heart failure. The doctor surgically implants the LVAD, which then helps the main pumping chamber of the heart (left ventricle) pumps blood to the rest of the body. LVADs work by pumping blood from the left ventricle (lower part of the heart) and pushing it out the aorta, a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. In other words, it assists the weakened heart. The pump is implanted inside the body to your heart and is connected to a protected electrical wire that runs outside of the body, which is connected to a power source. LVADs can be used as:
- Bridge to transplant therapy: This is a life-saving therapy for patients awaiting a heart transplant. Patients use the LVAD until a heart becomes available. In some cases, the LVAD can restore the failing heart, eliminating the need for a transplant.
- Destination therapy: Some patients are not candidates for heart transplants. In this case, patients can receive long-term treatment using an LVAD, which can prolong and improve patients' lives.
An LVAD restores normal blood flow to a person whose heart has been weakened by heart disease. This relieves symptoms, such as being constantly tired or short of breath, and sometimes, it lets the heart recover to normal function by giving it a chance to rest.
Who is a candidate for an LVAD?
LVADs are for people with heart failure who meet certain criteria. Generally, these are people with advanced heart failure who are considered Class III or IV by the New York Heart Association classification system (see below).
New York Heart Association Classification (Classes III & IV):
- Class III: Patients with cardiac disease resulting in significant limitation of physical activity. They are comfortable only at rest.
- Class IV: Patients with cardiac disease resulting in an inability to carry on any physical activity without discomfort. Symptoms of heart failure or angina (chest pain) may be present even at rest. Any physical activity causes an increase in discomfort.
What are the risks of an LVAD?
As with any surgery, there are risks with having an LVAD implanted. They include:
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