Dr. Yugal Mishra

Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical pump that is used to support the pumping function of the heart in patients with severe heart failure or other conditions that cause the heart to weaken. VADs can be categorized into different types based on the specific ventricle they support:

  1. Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD): An LVAD is designed to assist the left ventricle, which is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. It is the most commonly used type of VAD. The LVAD is implanted in the patient’s chest and helps to pump blood from the left ventricle into the aorta, bypassing the weakened or failing heart.
  1. Right Ventricular Assist Device (RVAD): An RVAD is used to support the right ventricle, which pumps blood from the heart to the lungs to receive oxygen. RVADs are typically used when the right ventricle is not functioning adequately, often in combination with an LVAD or as a temporary measure until the right ventricle recovers.
  1. Biventricular Assist Device (Bi-VAD): A Bi-VAD is a combination of an LVAD and an RVAD. It supports both the left and right ventricles simultaneously. Bi-VADs are used in patients with severe biventricular heart failure, where both ventricles are significantly weakened or failing.

These VADs are typically used as a bridge to heart transplantation, allowing patients to remain stable and improve their condition while awaiting a suitable donor heart. However, in some cases, VADs may also be used as a long-term solution, known as destination therapy, for patients who are not eligible for heart transplantation.

Indications:

Ventricular assist devices (VADs), including LVADs, RVADs, and Bi-VADs, are indicated in specific situations where the heart’s pumping function is severely compromised and requires mechanical support. Here are some common indications for VAD implantation:

  1. End-Stage Heart Failure: VADs are commonly used as a bridge-to-transplantation therapy in patients with end-stage heart failure who are awaiting a heart transplant. When the heart’s pumping function is severely impaired, and medical therapy is no longer effective, a VAD can provide temporary mechanical support until a suitable donor heart becomes available.
  1. Destination Therapy: In patients who are not eligible for heart transplantation due to various reasons (such as advanced age, comorbidities, or patient preference), VADs can be used as long-term therapy known as destination therapy. Destination therapy aims to improve the patient’s quality of life and prolong survival by providing ongoing mechanical support to the failing heart.
  1. Acute Cardiogenic Shock: VADs can be utilized in cases of acute cardiogenic shock, a life-threatening condition characterized by a sudden and severe decrease in heart function. VADs can provide immediate mechanical support to the failing heart while the underlying cause of the shock is addressed or until further interventions, such as heart transplantation, can be considered.
  1. Bridge to Recovery: In some cases, VADs can be used as a temporary measure to support the heart and allow it to recover from an acute insult, such as a myocardial infarction (heart attack) or myocarditis. The VAD provides mechanical assistance to the heart while allowing time for the damaged myocardium to heal and regain its pumping function.
  1. Right Ventricular Failure: RVADs are specifically indicated when the right ventricle is failing and not effectively pumping blood to the lungs. This can occur as a result of various conditions, including severe pulmonary hypertension, right ventricular infarction, or advanced heart failure. RVADs provide mechanical support to the right ventricle, allowing improved blood flow to the lungs and relieving symptoms associated with right heart failure.


Contraindications:

There are certain contraindications or situations where the use of ventricular assist devices (VADs), including LVADs, RVADs, and Bi-VADs, may not be recommended. These contraindications can vary depending on individual patient characteristics and specific clinical factors. Here are some examples:

  1. Irreversible End-Stage Organ Failure: If a patient has multiple end-stage organ failures, such as irreversible kidney, liver, or lung disease, it may impact the decision to implant a VAD. The presence of significant dysfunction in other organs may limit the potential benefits of VAD therapy and increase the risk of complications.
  1. Active Infections or Systemic Illness: Active infections, such as severe sepsis, may increase the risk of complications associated with VAD implantation and subsequent management. Similarly, patients with systemic illnesses that significantly affect their overall health and ability to tolerate surgery and long-term VAD support may not be suitable candidates.
  1. Severe Pulmonary Hypertension: Patients with severe pulmonary hypertension, particularly if it is not responsive to medical therapy, may have an increased risk of complications with VAD implantation. Pulmonary hypertension puts additional strain on the right side of the heart, and VAD support may not be sufficient to overcome the elevated pressures in the pulmonary circulation.
  1. Limited Life Expectancy or Poor Prognosis: In situations where the patient has a limited life expectancy due to advanced age, significant comorbidities, or the presence of other severe diseases, the potential benefits of VAD therapy may be outweighed by the risks and burdens associated with the treatment.
  1. Patient Preference and Informed Consent: Patient preferences, values, and goals of care play a crucial role in the decision-making process. If the patient does not wish to undergo VAD implantation or does not agree with the treatment approach, their decision should be respected.