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Living Donation
Medical Mondays - Advanced Heart Failure 

As he waits for a heart transplant, Mike Tracy spends time with his family while on a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

Watch his story featured on Medical Mondays »


Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs)

UPMC offers a range of treatment options for people with severe heart failure, including the latest and most advanced ventricular assist devices (VADs) for mechanical circulatory support.

Patients awaiting heart transplantation may require a VAD, and the multidisciplinary team at the UPMC Artificial Heart Program evaluates each individual to develop a treatment plan based on their specific needs.

VAD Types and Uses

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical device that takes over the work of the heart to circulate blood throughout the body. VADs provide left, right, or both left and right heart support. They can be implanted into the chest or worn outside the body.

VADs are often used as a bridge to transplant when medical or surgical options for circulatory support are no longer effective. Once implanted, a VAD sustains the patient until their heart transplant, allowing them to live a more normal life outside the hospital while they wait.

VADs are also used as destination therapy for people who are not candidates for heart transplantation, or as a bridge to recovery following a heart attack, heart surgery, or other cardiac event to allow the heart to heal.

Our Expertise

UPMC’s experts have embraced—and in some cases, pioneered—VAD technology for more than 30 years. Our surgeons implanted the second Jarvik Artificial Heart as a bridge to transplant in 1985, and UPMC became the first medical center to discharge a patient with a VAD in 1990.

Since those early days, UPMC’s Artificial Heart Program has become one of the most active of its kind. Our physicians have implemented more than 1,000 VADs, and over 600 people have received treatment.

Through our partnership with the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, UPMC’s clinicians have access to the latest VAD technology and research. Our experts have not only improved upon existing devices, but also developed new ones to increase survival rates and enhance quality of life for people awaiting heart transplantation.

The Artificial Heart Program Team

UPMC’s Artificial Heart Program combines the expertise of cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, biomedical engineers, clinical nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, and technicians to provide each patient with ample support.

Working together, the experts on the Artificial Heart Program Team:

  • Conduct thorough evaluations of each candidate to determine if a VAD is right for them
  • Assess which type of VAD is most beneficial for each individual patient
  • Provide comprehensive education to patients and their families before and after VAD implantation
  • Identify opportunities for the development of new technology

VAD Research

Our program leaders have authored widely published research and are internationally regarded as pioneers in VAD development and application. Currently research projects and trials include:

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of certain types of LVADs for destination therapy
  • Evaluating the safety and efficacy of certain medications in patients who are being evaluated for LVAD implantation as a bridge to transplant or destination therapy.

More Information

For more information on our VAD program, visit

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