• Frequently Asked Questions about Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs)

    The Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) program, part of the Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, provides answers to frequently asked questions.
  • A ventricular assist device is a small pump that sits inside or outside the body and does the job of the heart when the heart is too sick to pump.

    Mechanical Circulatory Support means that we are using a machine to move the blood through the body to all the vital organ systems.

    MCS and VADs can support a patient’s blood flow to their body until their heart recovers is replaced by a transplanted heart, or for the duration of the patient’s life (destination therapy).

    Our VAD program offers a broad range of circulatory support devices, which enables us to support all children and young adults, regardless of size or cause of heart disease. Our approach to care is individual to each patient, making us unique in the field of mechanical circulatory support.

    End-stage heart failure patients are evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team to determine their device candidacy. There are many studies that are required to determine if a device is the best option and if it is a safe for the patient to undergo the procedure.
    The person’s size, age and disease state are all taken into account when deciding what device is right for each patient. 

    To best prepare for a ventricular assist device we encourage the patient to try to get the best nutrition possible to help with healing. This is sometimes hard if the patient is in severe heart failure.

    The recovery time varies depending on the size of the patient and the device that is chosen. A thorough explanation is provided at the time of consultation since this is patient dependent. 
    A life with a VAD is not easy. Everything that you normally do will be different since you rely on battery power and electricity. We encourage patients to discuss this question with other patients that have VADS if possible. 

    The answer to this question depends on the VAD that is used. Some VADs are only designed and FDA approved to be used in the hospital.  

    If you are on a durable device that allows for discharge home, you will be able to lead a relatively normal life.  You can exercise, travel and go to school and work. 

    After the device is placed and you have recovered from surgery, the biggest risks are to the blood thinners that are required to keep the device functioning. After discharge there is a risk of stroke and bleeding.