LVAD: Reasons for Use and Eligibility

One thing you have heard people talk about is an LVAD or left ventricular assist device. It is exactly what it sounds like as it assists the left ventricle in pumping blood to the rest of the body. If you are wondering why your doctor has never mentioned this to you as an option, it’s because it is generally a last resort option. More than likely you are not at that point or may not qualify for one. Let’s take a look at what an LVAD is and if the time comes, will help you decide if you want to go that route.

LVAD basics

LVAD's are implanted with an open heart surgery with an external unit you will have to keep with you at all times. The power supply is a rechargeable battery or cord that plugs into a socket in the wall. It will have alarms that will alert you to issues and a small computer that controls it. There are two uses for LVAD’s we will go over.1

Bridge to translpant

The first use is a bridge-to-transplant (BTT). You would already be approved for a transplant, and this device will hopefully help keep you alive long enough to get one. It is hoped that the LVAD will provide you with fewer symptoms and a better quality of life while you wait for a donor's heart. Once you do get a new heart, you will no longer have the LVAD.1

Destination therapy

The second use is called destination therapy (DT) and is for people who can not get a transplant but can have an LVAD. The goal is to provide relief or help with symptoms and increase the quality of life for the rest of your life. This is the end of the road for these people. DT may not be appropriate for people who have clotting disorders, kidney failure, liver disease, lung disease, or infections not able to be treated with antibiotics. Your doctor will help you determine if you are eligible.1

Eligibility

A few conditions that will make you eligible for an LVAD are, but are not limited to, severe symptomatic heart failure where all other therapy has failed, severe left ventricular dysfunction and intractable arrhythmias, ejection fraction less than or equal to 25 percent, and intractable angina not responsive to medical therapy or revascularization procedures in patients with poor left ventricular function. Of course, there are other factors, and depending on which use you need for the LVAD will determine what the criteria will be for it.1

Post-surgery

As you can see, you don’t really want an LVAD, but when you get to that point, hopefully, this helps you a little in understanding what one is and if you think you may want it. I can for sure say that I would take one if needed. Once you are healed from the surgery, while mildly inconvenient at times, I think this would offer a way to live a better-quality life and a little bit longer than you would without one. One last fun fact about people with LVAD, they don’t have a pulse and can’t take blood pressure with a standard cuff.2

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