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Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

  • Understanding the Procedure

    Mount Elizabeth, Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

    The left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a device designed to save patients from heart failure. This mechanical pump is implanted inside the chest to help the heart do its job by pumping oxygen-rich blood around the body when needed. In the case of end-stage heart failure, when nothing else can help, an LVAD can give the patient a new lease of life.

    Implanted in the heart by experienced specialists, one end of the LVAD is attached to the left ventricle – the heart chamber in charge of pumping blood around the body, and the other end is attached to the aorta, the main artery in the body. This heart-assist device is then connected via a cable made of special materials to a computer controller and a power pack that remain outside of your body.

    Gleneagles Hospital uses the new generation HeartMate II – one of the most advanced and reliable devices for the treatment of heart failure available today. The HeartMate II is the only heart-assist device approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for both bridge-to-heart transplant and for long-term “destination” therapy. While an average healthy adult needs the heart to pump 4 – 5 litres of blood every minute while at rest, this device can pump 6 – 10 litres of oxygen-rich blood per minute, providing ample blood flow to allow the patient to perform the normal activities of daily living independently. The main problem with previous heart pumps have been wear and tear, as well as blood clots forming within the pump. Not only is the HeartMate II smaller and quieter than other LVADs, it is also designed to function for many years with minimal wear and tear, and with the proper medication, the rate of blood clots forming is low.

    Patients suffering from end-stage heart failure who are not responding to medications and pacemakers may be advised by specialists to implant an LVAD while awaiting a heart donor. This will keep them alive and maintain the function of the other vital organs such as the kidney and liver during this time, so that the patient will be ready for a heart transplant should a donor heart become available. For those who are not eligible for heart transplant or in urgent or emergency situations where there is no time to wait for a donor, the surgeon may recommend the permanent implantation of an LVAD in the chest to restore normal blood circulation. Blood thinners will also be prescribed to reduce the risk of blood clots forming in the pump.

    To ensure that the LVAD pump is able to function smoothly in the body together with the other vital organs, patients must meet certain medical criteria before undergoing LVAD implantation, which the cardiologist will establish when they evaluate your condition.

  • An LVAD works to restore normal blood flow in patients whose hearts have been weakened by heart disease. This helps to relieve physical symptoms of a weak heart such as constant tiredness or shortness of breath, thereby significantly improving the quality of life. In the case of viral infections of the heart muscle, an LVAD can also allow the heart to regain normal function by providing your heart muscles a chance to rest and recover.

    Some patients with other major illnesses who are not eligible for heart transplant may also be suitable for and benefit from the use of a permanent LVAD. Known as 'destination therapy', this long-term support option is an alternative to receiving a heart transplant, and can make a life-saving difference for patients whose hearts are too weak to pump blood on their own. Landmark studies published have shown that permanent LVAD-assisted therapy can double the survival rate of patients with end-stage heart failure at 1 year and even at 2 years, compared to treatment without the use of an LVAD.

    Gleneagles Hospital's established team of highly specialised cardiac surgeons and cardiologists, supported by a strong multidisciplinary team of medical specialists, nurses and therapists, will guide patients with professionalism and care through the entire process from surgery to recovery and back to independence.

  • High-quality, customised healthcare has been our legacy for more than 50 years. Our skilled team of specialists and staff at Gleneagles Hospital is committed to your goal of getting swift, accurate and effective treatment. Enquire to find out more.

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