Left Ventricular Assist Devices

Health: heart disease, heart score line
At any one time in this country 50 to 100,000 people are suffering from heart failure, but only about 2,000 people a year receive heart transplants. For some people, an LVAD device can help patients by attaching to the left ventricle of the heart, taking over the work of pumping blood for the heart.

What Is A Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)?

According to the American Heart Association, the left ventricle is the large, muscular chamber of the heart that pumps blood out to the body. A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a battery-operated, mechanical pump-type device that's surgically implanted. It helps maintain the pumping ability of a heart that can't effectively work on its own.

When Is A LVAD Used?

This device is sometimes called a "bridge to transplant," according to the American Heart Association, people awaiting a heart transplant often must wait a long time before a suitable heart becomes available. During this wait, the patient's already-weakened heart may deteriorate and become unable to pump enough blood to sustain life. An LVAD can help a weak heart and "buy time" for the patient.

How Does An LVAD Work?

A common type of LVAD has a tube that pulls blood from the left ventricle into a pump, according to the American Heart Association. The pump then sends blood into the aorta (the large blood vessel leaving the left ventricle). This effectively helps the weakened ventricle. The pump is placed in the upper part of the abdomen. Another tube attached to the pump is brought out of the abdominal wall to the outside of the body and attached to the pump's battery and control system. LVADs are now portable and are often used for weeks to months. Patients with LVADs can be discharged from the hospital and have an acceptable quality of life while waiting for a donor heart to become available.

To Learn More About Heart Disease And LVAD:

• The Texas Heart Institute has additional resources.

• Click here for warning signs of a heart attack or stroke.

• You can read more from the Cleveland Heart Clinic.

• WebMD has additional resources.