What is a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)?

What is a VAD?

A VAD, which stands for ventricular assist device, is an artificial heart pump that either temporarily or permanently takes over the pumping function of the heart.

A VAD has 2 components:

  1. A pump (surgically implanted through blood vessels in the leg or by open heart surgery)
  2. A battery-operated power source (outside the body and connected by wires)

VADs are used to help the heart supply vital blood flow to the various organs of the body when the heart cannot do this job on its own. They are generally used in the following situations:

Types of VADs 

There are 2 types of VADs:

  • Left ventricular assist device (LVAD): pumps blood from the left ventricle to the aorta (the main artery that carries blood to the body)
  • Right ventricular assist device (RVAD): pumps blood from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery (the artery that carries blood to the lungs to get oxygen)

VADs can be either internal or external.

Internal VADs

Internal VADs (implantable VADs) require open heart surgery. The pump is placed inside the chest; the power source remains outside the body. They are connected by wires that are run through a small hole through the skin on the side of the abdomen.

Internal VADs are for long-term use in people who are waiting for heart transplants or in people who are not heart transplant candidates.

External VADs

External VADs (transcutaneous VADs) use a pump and a power source that are both outside the body.

Transcutaneous VADs are for short-term use.

VAD Risks

There are some risks associated with VADs. VAD complications may include:

  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Device malfunction
  • Stroke

At Wake Forest Baptist Health, you'll have a team of health care professionals who will monitor your condition before, during and after your VAD placement. Your team may include heart doctors (cardiologists), nurse specialists and others. 

You may request an appointment with a Heart Center doctor by filling out our online form.

Learn more about Wake Forest Baptist's cardiology services.

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Advanced Cardiac Care and Transplant

The Advanced Cardiac Care and Transplant Program at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is a comprehensive program for patients with cardiovascular conditions.

Last Updated: 02-14-2014
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Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.