Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

What is an LVAD?

lvad.jpgWhen the heart is too weak to pump blood independently, a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) can help circulate blood throughout the body. It is implanted through open-heart surgery. 

LVAD is designed to help people who have exhausted the limitations of medical therapies.

It can also help people suffering a recent onset of heart failure for various reasons, such as a virus or postpartum cardiomyopathy.

Benefits of an LVAD

After having an LVAD put in, people often find they have more energy than ever and can get back to doing the things they enjoyed before their heart condition slowed them down.

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

What We Offer

Led by experts from OSF Cardiovascular Institute, the LVAD Program at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center provides a closer-to-home alternative for people in communities throughout central Illinois.

We take a multi-disciplinary approach to your advanced heart failure needs, and specialists help you deal with the impacts on your social, emotional and physical health.

The experienced team of surgeons and advanced heart failure cardiologists, plus a transplant coordinator on call 24/7, guide you through this journey of referral to LVAD. 

How to Get Started

To learn if you qualify for LVAD at OSF Saint Francis, you need a physician's referral to the advanced heart failure specialists at OSF Cardiovascular Institute.

You will need to complete 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 what you need to know and ask questions about the procedure itself and what to expect afterward.

Once the tests and evaluations are complete, the LVAD team meets to review your case to determine if an LVAD device is safe and appropriate for you.

Your cardiologist will inform you of the committee's decision and alternate therapies if you are not an LVAD candidate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you go swimming with a ventricular assist device (VAD)?

Currently, none of the VAD’s we implant will allow you to submerge underwater.

Can you shower with a VAD?

You can shower when you get permission from your surgeon. You will have to protect the external VAD equipment and driveline site as directed by your VAD coordinator.

Can I be sexually active with a VAD?

Yes, you may resume sexual activity once you have recovered from your surgery.

Can I drive a car with a VAD?
Your surgeon or cardiologist will discuss this with you at your three-month return visit. They will be looking at your post-op recovery and any alarm or equipment issues. They may set limitations on where you can drive.
Can I ever be alone (without a caregiver)?
Our surgeons and cardiologist prefer you have strong caregiver support, especially in the early postoperative period (first three months). This will be reassessed three to six months after your implant, looking at how well you have recovered and can respond to emergency situations (troubleshooting alarms).
Does the VAD require dressing changes?
The driveline always requires a sterile dressing over the site. Your caregiver will start out having to change it daily for about three months. Then you should be transitioned to a weekly change, as long as there are no issues with the site.
Who will help me troubleshoot VAD equipment issues?
Your VAD team has someone on call 24/7 to assist with medical and equipment emergencies. Make sure you and your caregivers always have the on-call number available.
Will my local EMS and Fire Department know anything about my VAD?
Your VAD team notifies your local emergency room and first responders when you are discharged home from the hospital. The VAD team answers questions and provides educational material; however, it is always good to visit them yourself. Seeing a real patient and equipment is still helpful.
How long do these heart pumps last?
That is a complicated question with many different variables that your surgeon will go over with you before your implant. These devices are meant to either bridge you to a heart transplant (if you are a candidate) or extend your life and improve your heart failure symptoms. There are patients out over ten years with VAD’s.