Left Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program

Some people with advanced heart failure get better with an implantable device that helps their heart do its job. Also known as a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), the Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute is among the most experienced and most successful programs implanting left ventricular assist devices (LVADs).

Henry Ford: Left ventricular assist device experts

We have implanted more than 300 LVADs since the start of our program in 1993. Our LVAD program has also maintained the Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval™ since 2008. This advanced certification recognizes our commitment to meeting the highest national safety and quality standards.

Our active participation in research and clinical trials means that we are able to offer the best available devices. In fact, we have participated in all major LVAD trials. This work helps us stay at the forefront of new technology and surgical implant practices.

  • In 2006, we participated in the Heart Mate II® clinical trial. This smaller and quieter device provides long-term support for a broad range of heart failure conditions.
  • Our participation in clinical trials for the HeartWare® Ventricular Assist System allowed us to offer the first FDA approved LVAD placed right near the heart sac (pericardial placement).

If you need multiple surgical treatments, for example an LVAD and a valve replacement, your procedure may take place in one of our hybrid operating rooms (ORs). These special operating suites include advanced imaging technology and sophisticated equipment allowing our cardiac surgeons and interventional cardiologists to perform different types of surgery in the same procedure. Learn more about our Hybrid OR.

Living with Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

Three patients from Henry Ford Health System share their perspective on living with LVAD and what it has meant for themselves and their families.

Mr. Clay’s Story

After a heart attack, stents and more than 20 years of medication, Mr. Clay received a critical diagnosis and an LVAD implant, which gave him a new lease on life.

Advanced heart failure treatment with ventricular assist devices

An LVAD does not replace your heart. It works with the lower chambers of your heart to help pump blood to the rest of your body.

It can help you:

  • Temporarily during or after surgery while your heart recovers, or while you are waiting for a heart transplant
  • Permanently if you cannot have a heart transplant

We use two types of temporary LVAD devices:

  • Impella®: The world’s smallest mechanical cardiovascular support system. This device supports your heart for up to seven days. Using catheters, our experts implant the Impella device using a non-surgical procedure
  • CentriMag®: This device supports the right side of your heart for up to 30 days

Components of LVADs include:

  • A mechanical pump placed inside your body
  • Computerized control systems and an energy supply located outside your body
  • A thin tube (drive line) connecting the components inside and outside your body

LVAD implant surgery at Henry Ford

LVAD implantation is an open surgical procedure. Here is how it works:

  1. Prior to your procedure, one of our LVAD coordinators will show you a LVAD device and how to take care of it.
  2. We give you medicine to put you to sleep (general anesthesia).
  3. Once you’re asleep, we connect you to a ventilator to help you breathe.
  4. We make an incision in your chest to expose your heart.
  5. A highly specialized team of experts stops your heart and cools your body down to protect your organs.
  6. A special machine, called a heart-lung bypass, takes over the work of your heart circulating blood around your body.
  7. Our heart-lung bypass team closely monitors your condition throughout surgery to make sure you are getting enough blood.
  8. We implant your LVAD device near your heart.
  9. We make a small incision near your upper stomach (abdomen) and thread the driveline through it.
  10. We connect the driveline to the pump.
  11. Using a special computer we test the LVAD to make sure it is working properly.
  12. Our heart-lung bypass team slowly warms your blood and re-introduces it to your body.
  13. We restart your heart.
  14. After closing your chest with stitches (sutures), your surgery is complete.
  15. You recover in our cardiac ICU where nurses with special training in cardiovascular care monitor your condition.

After surgery, you go to our cardiac ICU where nurses with special training in cardiovascular care monitor your condition. You can expect to stay in the hospital for up to two weeks while you recover and learn how to get around with your LVAD.

Our advanced heart failure team includes dedicated nurses with special training on LVAD devices. These nurses are available around the clock if you have any questions about your device. You can also join our LVAD support group, which offers information and support for you and your family.

Take the next step.

Let us help you schedule an appointment.

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