Implantable Medical Devices

Updated:May 1,2012

Nurse And patientIn certain cases, your doctor may prescribe an implantable device to assist your heart.

Pacemakers and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) are used to treat arrhythmias — a condition of heart rhythm problems that occurs when the electrical impulses that coordinate your heartbeats don't function properly, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly. The Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) helps maintain the pumping ability of your heart.

Implantable Medical Devices

(Also known as LVAD)

What is a left ventricular assist device (LVAD)?

The left ventricle is the large, muscular chamber of the heart that pumps blood out to the body. A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a battery-operated, mechanical pump-type device that's surgically implanted. It helps maintain the pumping ability of a heart that can't effectively work on its own.

These devices are available in most heart transplant centers.

When is an LVAD used?

This device is sometimes called a "bridge to transplant," but is now used in long-term therapy. People awaiting a heart transplant often must wait a long time before a suitable heart becomes available. During this wait, the patient's already-weakened heart may deteriorate and become unable to pump enough blood to sustain life. An LVAD can help a weak heart and "buy time" for the patient or eliminate the need for a heart transplant. Most recently, LVADs are being used longer-term as ‘destination therapy’ in end-stage heart failure patients when heart transplantation is not an option.

How does an LVAD work?

A common type of LVAD has a tube that pulls blood from the left ventricle into a pump. The pump then sends blood into the aorta (the large blood vessel leaving the left ventricle). This effectively helps the weakened ventricle. The pump is placed in the upper part of the abdomen. Another tube attached to the pump is brought out of the abdominal wall to the outside of the body and attached to the pump's battery and control system. LVADs are now portable and are often used for weeks to months. Patients with LVADs can be discharged from the hospital and have an acceptable quality of life while waiting for a donor heart to become available.

Promising study results for LVADs

In a study published in Circulation in 2005, LVADs restored failing hearts in some patients with heart failure, eliminating the need for a transplant. According to an abstract presented at the American Heart Association's 2005 Scientific Sessions, LVADs reduced the risk of death in end-stage heart failure patients by 50 percent at six and 12 months and extended the average life span from 3.1 months to more than 10 months.

Related information:

Heart Attack

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