A Team Approach to Ventricular Assist Devices
Care of patients with severe heart failure takes the skills of many different types of healthcare professionals. Our Advanced Heart Failure Team consists of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurse coordinators, a social worker and a financial coordinator working together to ensure patients receive care specific to their needs. For patients with a ventricular assist device (VAD), our expert doctors and nurses are available around the clock for support.
Our cardiologists have training in the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure. This includes the use of medications proven effective in the treatment of heart failure, left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) and other types of mechanical circulatory support and heart transplantation.
For patients who require an operation to treat their heart failure, our cardiac surgeons are specially trained in the use of ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), LVADs and total artificial heart (TAH), in addition to heart transplantation, and have more than 15 years' experience in this area.
The nurse coordinators help guide patients through the evaluation and treatment process. They talk to patients about the options, and they educate patients and their families on how to take care of the LVAD or total artificial heart. They see LVAD and TAH patients in the outpatient offices on a regular basis and are readily available by phone 24/7 for any questions or concerns. Coordinators also work with patients in need of a heart transplant.
Patients with advanced heart failure have very specific needs. The heart failure social worker helps to assess if the patient and family are prepared for LVAD or TAH therapy and heart transplantation.
Health insurance plans often cover the costs of LVADs and heart transplantation. However, the amount of coverage varies, and a financial coordinator reviews the coverage of all potential patients. Counselors also advise the patient on likely expenses associated with treatment. In cases where insurance coverage is inadequate, the financial counselor will help educate patients and their families on the options available.
Patients are considered for a VAD because they have severe heart failure and have a risk of dying from their disease. After VAD placement, the risk of death is lower, but complications can occur which can lead to death or a change in the quality of life for that patient. The Palliative Care team makes sure the patient understands they can chose to proceed with a VAD or continue with medications. They also are there to support the patient and family if complications occur that require them to make difficult decisions.