Reasons to Use a VAD

There are commonly three main reasons that a ventricular assist device (VAD) might be used:

  1. As a bridge to transplant
  2. As a bridge to recovery
  3. For destination therapy

Bridge to Transplant

Some patients with advanced heart failure are candidates for a heart transplant, which can dramatically improve survival and quality of life. Unfortunately, donor hearts are not always available. A patient may wait several years before a suitable donor heart is found. While waiting the condition of the heart may continue to worsen. A VAD is most often used to sustain severe heart failure patients until a donor heart becomes available, and the patient can receive a transplant.

Supporting Research

Researchers have studied and documented how patients with ventricular assist devices fare before and after the heart transplant.* Several devices are available at University of Utah Heath for help in supporting the failing heart while a patient awaits a donor heart. These VADs are designed to allow patients full mobility to participate in physical strengthening as well as live outside the hospital while they wait for a donor heart.

Bridge to Recovery

In some patients with reversible forms of heart failure, a ventricular assist device (VAD) can be implanted with the hope that it will allow the heart to recover. Once the heart has recovered sufficiently, the VAD may be removed. The temporary VAD can also allow time for decisions to be made regarding the need for a more permanent VAD or heart transplant.

Destination Therapy

For some patients who are not good candidates for heart transplantation, a VAD may be used to provide support for a failing heart over the course of several years. Newer VAD pumps have been designed to provide patients with greater mobility and out-of hospital use so that they may return home after the device has been implanted. The goal of VADs for destination therapy is to help patients live a good quality of life that they would otherwise not have with their severe heart failure.

*The Impact of Bridge to Transplant VAD Support on Long Term Survival Following Cardiac Transplantation: Analysis of a Single Center Experience with over 1000 Heart Transplants
 by David A Bull, Craig H Selzman, Amit N Patel, Reza Khodaverdian, Dale G Renlund, John A Hawkins