Ventricular assist device (VAD)

Location of VAD pump, battery packs, and controller, with detail of VAD pumping blood from heart's left ventricle to the aorta

A ventricular assist device (VAD), also known as a heart pump, is a mechanical device that helps pump blood from the heart to the rest of your body.

This picture shows one type of a left-ventricular assist device (LVAD). This device pulls blood from the left ventricle and pumps it to the aorta and the rest of the body. Other types of VADs pull blood from the right ventricle or both ventricles and pump it to the rest of the body. The heart still pumps some blood on its own. But the VAD helps the heart pump blood better.

A VAD can be implanted inside the body or worn outside the body. If it is implanted, surgery is done to place it in the chest area.

The pump part of the VAD is placed in a small space in your upper abdomen. The pump is connected to a control system by a thin cable, also called a lead or drive line. This cable comes out of your belly through a small cut in your skin called an exit site.

The pump part of a VAD can be implanted, but the VAD battery packs and control system are worn outside the body. The battery packs and control system can be worn on a shoulder strap and belt.

Current as ofJuly 22, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Rakesh K. Pai, MD - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
David C. Stuesse, MD - Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
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