Jefferson University Hospitals

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there alternatives to a VAD for heart failure?

For patients who are sick enough for a VAD, the only other options are chronic inotropes (intravenous medications that push the heart to work harder), transplantation and hospice. Inotropes are not good for long-term use because patients usually do not survive more than a year. Transplantation is limited by the availability of donor organs. In addition, some patients do not qualify for transplantation. Hospice is reserved for patients who cannot get any of the other therapies or who do not desire to have them.

Can my heart recover on a VAD?

While there are some people whose heart gets better after placement of an LVAD, this is not common. However, we monitor all patients on a VAD for signs of recovery. If recovery occurs, the removal of the device is a possibility.

Can I live at home on a VAD?

Our goal is to get every VAD patient home again living the life they want to live. After recovering from the VAD placement, patients are usually able to return to a fairly normal life at home. Some patients require inpatient rehab before going home. Your doctors will assess your need for this prior to discharge.

Which doctors will take care of me while I’m on the VAD?

You’ll require special care by physicians who are experts in the care of VAD patients. The physicians at Jefferson will provide care for you as long as you have your VAD. Patients on VADs also will need to be at a VAD-capable hospital for any admission or procedure requiring anesthesia.

How long does the surgery take?

The VAD surgery usually takes 4 to 8 hours.

How long will I be in the hospital after a VAD implantation procedure?

Patients are usually in the hospital for two weeks or more after implantation. Your health prior to the surgery will factor in to the length of stay.

Is it better to have a VAD or Total Artificial Heart?

VAD is almost always a better option for people who only need support of the left side of the heart. For those with severe failure of both sides of the heart, a total artificial heart or bi-ventricular assist devices are the best options. Your cardiologist and surgeon will determine which device is best for you.

If I cannot shower with a VAD, how will I stay clean?

Our team will educate you about how to stay clean with sponge baths. In addition, many VAD patients are willing to share their tips.

What will be expected of my family/support?

You should plan for someone to be with you at all times for about six weeks after you are discharged home. Most patients need support to perform sterile dressing changes of the driveline (wire coming out of the abdomen) site; to assist with filling a medication box and making changes to the pill box when needed; to accompany you to the laboratory and office visits; and to assist with monitoring symptoms and calling when needed.

How will I wear the external equipment?  

You will be provided with a vest and a bag to carry the equipment. Many patients create other alternatives and most VAD patients are eager to share tips.