Three patients from Henry Ford Health System share their perspective on living with LVAD and what it has meant for themselves and their families.
Left Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program
Henry Ford is among the most experienced and successful programs implanting left ventricular assist devices (LVADs).
For people with advanced heart failure who are being treated with medications, the survival rate can be less than 50-75% at one year, which is a worse prognosis than many cancers. However, there are options for improved survival and quality of life for many people with advanced heart failure. This includes left ventricular assist device (LVAD) therapy, which offers many people an opportunity to live and breathe again.
An LVAD doesn’t replace your heart
Instead, the LVAD works with the lower chamber of your heart to help pump blood to the rest of your body. Some people are on an LVAD temporarily, while others live permanently on the pump. In the U.S., an LVAD is currently approved by Medicare and most insurers for two indications:
- Bridge to transplant: This category is when you are listed for heart transplant but require LVAD support until a donor heart is available. In this case, you’ll go home and live on your LVAD until heart transplant surgery. Because it can take time to find a donor heart, you may require LVAD support for months to years before transplant.
- Destination therapy: Some people with advanced heart failure are too sick to undergo a transplant evaluation or are not eligible for heart transplant for various reasons. In Michigan, the most common reasons for transplant ineligibility are age, tobacco abuse and obesity. LVAD therapy is offered to support the failing heart for carefully selected people who are not eligible for transplant. Some people may eventually become transplant candidates (for example, if they lose weight or stop smoking) while others live on the LVAD for the rest of their lives. Henry Ford has some of the longest-living LVAD patients in the country, and our survival at 5 years surpasses national averages.
Janet realized she needed an LVAD implant, and with the help of her Henry Ford team, she has fought through a number of setbacks, and now focuses on appreciating life.
Learn more about LVADs
Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) have offered hope and an improved quality of life to many people with advanced heart failure. If you have been advised to consider LVAD support, you and your loved ones will likely have many questions about how the device works, screening to determine if you’re eligible for an LVAD, the surgical process and important life changes you’ll need to make.
As you read through the information in these pages, please write down questions that we can address when we meet in clinic or in the hospital. We will sit down with you and your family and review this in detail prior to surgery.
You can also read our patient stories to see how others have lived on LVAD support. If you would like to meet an LVAD patient, we can often arrange this as well. We look forward to speaking with you and your family about LVAD.
The Henry Ford difference
- Experience: We are one of the most experienced LVAD programs in the nation, and have implanted almost 500 VADs since the start of our program in 1993. At any time, we have we have over 125 patients alive in the community on LVAD support.
- Outcomes: Studies show that experience is tied to good outcomes after LVAD implant, and ours are some of the best in the nation.
- Advanced certification: Our LVAD program has 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.
- Multidisciplinary care: People with heart failure often have other medical problems, such as COPD, diabetes, prior stroke and cancer. We work with Henry Ford experts in other specialties, such as endocrinology, neurology and hematology, as necessary. These specialists are also knowledgeable about LVADs and ready to assist your noncardiac needs. Our cardiac anesthesia experts will carefully support you and your LVAD through your elective and nonelective surgeries.
- Access: When you are admitted to our program, you will have 24/7 access to the LVAD team.
- Personalized, compassionate care: Because people with severe heart failure are very ill, it’s difficult to predict at the time of LVAD implant who will or will not go on to transplant. Whether or not you are eligible for a heart transplant, our program will provide you with expert, personalized care. Because people on LVAD support require close follow-up in our clinic, our team will form close, lifelong ties with you and your family.
- Clinical trials: Our active participation in research and clinical trials means that we are able to offer access to the newest and best devices. In fact, we have participated in all major LVAD trials, and we work with many different companies to improve device function, reduce complications and improve outcomes. This helps us stay at the forefront of new technology and surgical implant practices.
- Other heart support devices: While LVAD is the most common type of implant, for some this will not fully address severe heart failure. We offer other surgically implanted mechanical heart support devices for people with complex heart problems. This includes right ventricular assist device (RVAD) implants or total artificial heart support for those who need it.