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FDA Approves VAD for Permanent Use

The FDA approved the use of the HeartMate II device, a left ventricular assist device (VAD), for "destination therapy" or permanent use, allowing an alternative to heart transplant for end-stage heart-failure patients and helping patients survive long term.

"This is an opportunity to expand the use of mechanical assist devices in patients with advanced heart failure who are deemed not to be good heart transplant candidates," says Greg Ewald, MD, medical director of the artificial heart program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

"These devices can provide long-term mechanical therapy, and many of these patients can return to a good quality of life with significantly diminished symptoms."

VADs help a failing heart pump oxygen-rich blood through the body. They are surgically implanted in the chest cavity and attached to the heart’s left ventricle. An electric cable runs from the device through the skin to a pack containing a power supply and the pump’s controller.

"These devices give patients their lives back," says Ann Petlin, RN, clinical nurse specialist in cardiac surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. "Now, they’re able to get the circulation they need to survive."

Barnes-Jewish Hospital has offered the HeartMate II to patients since 2005 as a "bridge to transplant," allowing patients to live with the VAD until a donor heart becomes available.

The hospital currently implants more VADs every year than it transplants hearts, and it is the only center in the region to implant them.

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