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Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADs)

At the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, our heart specialists have extensive experience treating patients with advanced heart failure using heart pumps such as left ventricular assist devices (LVADs).

LVAD: Why Choose Us?

With experience implanting LVADs in hundreds of patients, we know how to perform very successful LVAD surgery in virtually any patient. We also provide expert follow-up care for the rest of your life.

At our center, you will find:

  • Personalized care: Each patient who receives an LVAD also has an assigned VAD coordinator. As your primary point of contact, the coordinator is always available to answer your questions and help you receive the care you need before, during and after the procedure.
  • Support groups: We host a VAD support group for patients who have mechanical support devices or transplanted hearts. The group meets on the first Monday of every month.
  • Medicare approval: Our surgeons are the only group in the St. Louis area approved by the federal Medicare program to permanently implant left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) to help those suffering from end-stage heart failure.

What is an LVAD?

An LVAD is a mechanical pump-type device that is surgically connected to the heart. It helps pump blood in a heart that can no longer function on its own.

The LVAD can improve quality and length of life for heart failure patients. LVADs have become smaller and more mechanically reliable over the past decade. They offer years of support to patients with advanced heart failure.

The Transplant Center currently implants 3 types of LVADs:

  • HeartMate II by Thoratec
  • HeartWare HVAD
  • HeartMate III (currently in clinical trials)

LVADs as a Bridge to Transplant

LVADs may be used as a bridge to transplant. This term means the device supports a patient’s heart while he or she waits for an available donor’s heart. Patients with implanted ventricular assist devices receive top priority with regard to limited donor heart allocation.

Patients who receive an LVAD prior to transplant experience the following:

  1. LVAD implantation: Our surgeons implant an LVAD to support the failing heart. During this period, a Barnes-Jewish Hospital VAD coordinator stays in close contact with you.
  2. Return home: Usually, we discharge you from the hospital while you wait for your transplant.
  3. Transplant surgery: When a donor’s heart becomes available, we call you for surgery. Surgeons will remove the LVAD along with the failing heart. The transplant team will implant the donor’s heart. Learn more about the heart transplant process.

LVADs as a Permanent Solution for Heart Failure

Some patients are not candidates for heart transplant, despite having advanced heart failure. In other cases, a patient may choose not to receive a heart transplant.

For these patients, LVADs may be used as long-term support for the patient’s heart when all other treatments have failed. This is also known as “destination therapy.”

Today’s LVAD devices are very durable and can support patients for years. Throughout the process, we will continue to look after your medical needs with personalized care and expertise.

Contact Us

For more information about the heart transplant program at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, call 855.925.0631.