In the US, thousands of people with advanced heart failure are awaiting heart transplants. Others have hearts so weak, they’re not expected to live a year, but they no longer meet the criteria for a transplant. For them, one option is a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a pump surgically connected to the heart that extends their lives for many years.
“This groundbreaking technology has changed the natural history of an illness that would otherwise take the lives of many patients,” said Vinay Thohan, MD, a cardiologist and the Medical Director of Mission Health’s Advanced Heart Failure Therapies.
How It Works
To qualify for LVAD, patients must be able to withstand an open-heart surgery necessary to implant the device. Lead lines connect the pump to external battery packs that offer about 14 hours of power. “With LVADs,” said Dr. Thohan, “patients gain both quality and quantity of life.”
LVAD patients walk out of the hospital about 14 days after surgery and are back to their lives in about two months. Those who were once winded while cooking or talking, are now able to get back to driving or even traveling across country. “For many, the symptoms of heart failure, like retaining fluid or poor organ function, are resolved with the boost of an LVAD,” said Dr. Thohan.
This technology is not without risks or lifestyle changes. Aside from undergoing surgery, there’s a risk of infection, stroke, bleeding event or a required device change.
Patients at Mission Health go through a thorough evaluation process, and the team helps balance the risk of putting in the device versus the risks of their heart failure progression. More than 80 percent of those who receive LVADs are alive three years later.
“Almost everybody who gets the devices will readily make the lifestyle changes for the opportunity to live a better and longer life,” said Dr. Thohan.
Vinay Thohan, MD, is a cardiologist and the Medical Director of Mission Health’s Advanced Heart Failure Therapies.