Living Donation

Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs): A Bridge to Heart Transplant

If you need a heart transplant, a ventricular assist device (VAD) can help your heart work while you wait. It can also give you a better quality of life.

UPMC offers a range of treatments for people with severe heart failure, including the latest and most advanced VADs.

What is a VAD?

A VAD is a mechanical device that helps the heart pump blood to the body.

VADs most often provide support to the left ventricle, the major pumping chamber of the heart. But they can also support both the right and left chambers of the heart.

Doctors can implant a VAD into the chest where some parts of the device stay outside the body.

At UPMC, we often use VADs as a bridge to heart transplant when medical treatment or surgery are no longer options.

Once implanted, a VAD sustains your heart while you wait for your transplant. It lets you live a more normal life outside the hospital while you wait for your new heart.

Doctors also use VADs:

  • As destination therapy to improve the lives of people who can't have a heart transplant.
  • To help the heart heal after a heart attack, heart surgery, or other heart issues.

Why Choose UPMC for Your VAD Implant?

  • Our experts have pioneered VAD technology for more than 30 years.
  • Our surgeons implanted the second Jarvik Artificial Heart as a bridge to transplant in 1985.
  • UPMC was 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.

UPMC’s doctors have:

  • Implanted over 1,100 VADs.
  • Improved existing VADs and designed new ones to increase survival rates and enhance the lives of people waiting for a heart transplant.
  • Access to the latest VAD technology and research through our partners at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The Artificial Heart Program Team

The team at the UPMC Artificial Heart Program assesses each person to design a treatment plan based on their unique needs.

Our team includes:

  • Heart doctors and heart surgeons
  • Biomedical engineers
  • VAD coordinators
  • Physical, occupational, and respiratory therapists
  • Advanced practice providers
  • Nurses

Working together, the artificial heart experts:

  • Conduct thorough exams to decide if a VAD is right for you.
  • Assess which type of VAD is most helpful for each person.
  • Give detailed education to patients and their loved ones about what to expect before and after a VAD implant.
  • Research new VAD technology.

Learn more about VADs at the UPMC Artificial Heart Program.

Contact the UPMC Heart Transplant Program today to make an appointment or refer a patient.

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