A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical pump that is used to support heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts.
The device takes blood from a lower chamber of the heart and helps pump it to the body and vital organs, just as a healthy heart would. (For more information about how the heart pumps blood, see the Diseases and Conditions Index How the Heart Works article.)
A ventricular assist device may be used if one or both of the heart's lower chambers, the ventricles (VEN-trih-kuls), do not work properly.
You may benefit from a ventricular assist device if your ventricles do not work well due to heart disease. A ventricular assist device can help support your heart:
The basic parts of a ventricular assist device include: a small tube that carries blood out of your heart into a pump; another tube that carries blood from the pump to your blood vessels, which deliver the blood to your body; and a power source.
The power source is connected to a control unit that monitors the VAD's functions. The control unit gives warnings, or alarms, if the power is low or if it senses that the device is not working correctly.
Some VADs pump blood like the heart does, with a pumping action. Other VADs keep up a continuous flow of blood. With a continuous flow VAD, you might not have a normal pulse that can be felt, but your body is getting the blood it needs.
Types of Ventricular Assist Devices
The two basic types of ventricular assist devices are a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and a right ventricular assist device (RVAD). If both types are used at the same time, they may be called a biventricular assist device (BIVAD). However, a BIVAD is not a separate type of VAD.
The LVAD is the most common type of VAD. It helps the left ventricle pump blood to the aorta. The aorta is the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your body.
RVADs usually are used only for short-term support of the right ventricle after LVAD surgery or other heart surgery. An RVAD helps the right ventricle pump blood to the pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary) artery. This is the artery that carries blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen.
Both an LVAD and RVAD (sometimes called a BIVAD) are used if both ventricles do not work well enough to meet the needs of the body. Another treatment option for this condition is a total artificial heart.