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Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Lima uses a model heart to show an older male patient how the VAD works
Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Lima uses a model heart to show a patient how the VAD works

What is a left ventricular assist device?

A left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, is a heart pump designed to support the heart’s left ventricle. It consists of internal and external components that assist weak heart muscles. A cable extends from the pump and connects to a power source worn outside of the body and comes with a carrying case that allows you to move about freely without restriction.

Every year, approximately 550,000 people are diagnosed with heart failure, a condition in which the heart muscle is unable to meet the body’s demands due to its inability to fill with blood, or in some cases, its inability to pump enough blood throughout the body. When heart failure is so advanced and medical therapy is no longer enough, we consider ventricular assistance device (VAD) therapy.

The HeartMate 3 system, developed by Abbott in Abbott Park, IL, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2017. The new technology includes a device designed to reduce the need for a potential pump replacement by decreasing the risk of a clot developing in the pump.

Our approach

A ventricular assist device is an amazing piece of technology, but the team behind it is what makes it work. At the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at North Shore University Hospital, we bring unprecedented knowledge and experience, one-on-one guidance and individualized care that helps this device do incredible things. In fact, at the Heart Hospital, we have the largest and most successful heart pump (LVAD) program on Long Island, with mortality and readmission outcomes better than other centers.

We offer a multidisciplinary approach and a tight-knit group of heart failure physicians, surgeons, nurse practitioners, behavioral psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists and LVAD coordinators. Everyone on the team has a role and a voice. We work together to ensure the best possible treatment for you.

Know that our care goes beyond the hospital walls and medical providers. If you are considering LVAD, your coordinator will also introduce you to a support network of patients and their caregivers. Through others’ firsthand experience, you’ll quickly discover the life-changing outcomes of this device.

Our experienced heart failure team is passionate about leading the next generation of surgical technologies for heart failure treatment, and has the largest and most successful ventricular assist program on Long Island. Northwell Health treats more heart failure patients than any of New York's leading heart transplant centers.

When considering ventricular assist therapy, our doctors focus on two things: your symptoms and quality of life, both of which can improve significantly with this device.

We’ve been ranked for high performance in our specialty for 2019-20 by U.S. News & World Report. We’re proud to be recognized for the exceptional care we provide every day.

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Our approach to heart pumps

Find out how our expert team of doctors, nurses, coordinators and more work together to ensure all of your needs—from physical to emotional—are met.

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Who it's for

LVAD therapy can be an alternative to heart transplant, providing long-term support to patients who are not candidates for transplant. But in many cases, LVAD therapy is considered a bridge-to-transplant, helping patients survive until a heart donor becomes available. It’s important for patients to be treated at a heart center with a fully integrated heart failure program and transplant center, so when the time comes for a transplant, you’re in the hands of expert physicians who have extensive experience; ours have already performed more than 500 heart transplants.

What to expect

On average, LVAD surgery takes four to eight hours. Surgery is usually scheduled in advance but may occasionally be performed as an emergency procedure.

During the operation, your surgeon will make an incision in your sternum to reach your heart. You will be placed on a heart and lung bypass machine while the device is implanted. After the surgery is complete, you'll be removed from the bypass machine and monitored closely in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Recovery

Directly after the surgery, you'll be monitored in the ICU until you are ready to be transferred to your hospital room. Patients typically stay in the hospital for 14 to 21 days while they recover. 

After your hospital stay, you may go home or transfer to an inpatient rehabilitation facility, depending on your unique condition. 

Learn more about heart failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs.

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Brian Lima, MD: Heart failure is a moving target. Early diagnosis and connecting patients with the right specialists quicker may save lives.
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