You’ll undergo an extensive LVAD screening process first to determine if this therapy is right for you.
Prior to getting an LVAD, you will meet with all the members of our Henry Ford advanced heart failure team. It is important that you mentally prepare yourself for several tests and appointments, including social work and psychological wellness assessments.
The LVAD screening process is extensive because it gives our team the important information needed to determine if LVAD therapy is right for you. In addition, it helps us to identify any medical or psychological conditions that may need to be addressed prior to your LVAD implant.
All patients are required to go through this screening process.
Patients who are being considered for heart transplant will have additional tests unique to the transplant process.
LVAD screening tests
We will complete many laboratory blood and urine tests, radiology imaging, cardiac and pulmonary tests during the LVAD screening process. The majority of these tests do not involve invasive procedures. In addition:
- Routine testing: Your routine health maintenance testing and requirements will be reviewed to ensure they are up to date.
- Dental exams: These are required yearly, given that tooth bacteria can infect your LVAD. If you have not seen a dentist, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your dentist now.
- Heart catheterization: This is a minimally invasive procedure that’s completed prior to surgery. You will receive light sedation for this procedure. In addition, a numbing medication is used to reduce the sensation of the catheters (thin tubes) being inserted into your blood vessels. Most people do not experience notable pain.
- If you’re not already in the hospital: You may be asked to walk for 6 minutes (called a 6-minute walk test) or walk on a treadmill (cardiopulmonary exercise test).
- Additional testing: Your heart failure team may order additional testing depending on your individual medical and surgical history and your physician’s evaluation.
LVAD multidisciplinary team
After your testing is complete, we hold a multidisciplinary meeting to discuss your risks for LVAD surgery. All of the following team members are crucial members of our team who help ensure that LVAD surgery is the right treatment for you. After this meeting, your doctors will relay any concerns and the team’s collective decision regarding your candidacy for the LVAD:
- Advanced heart failure physician: This is a cardiologist who specializes in heart failure treatment and management. Your physician will carry out a full history and physical exam, medically manage your heart failure and continue to care for you and your heart failure management for the duration of your life with the LVAD.
- Cardiothoracic surgeon: This physician will perform the LVAD implantation. You will meet with your surgeon to discuss the suitability of LVAD therapy for you and get answers to your surgical questions. Your surgeon will also discuss the risks of the surgery along with possible complications during or after surgery.
- LVAD coordinator: Prior to your procedure, one of our LVAD coordinators will show you the device and equipment and educate you and your family about the screening process. They will also teach you how to take care of the device and your responsibilities after getting the pump. You will be assigned a specific LVAD coordinator after implant. This resource will be your first contact regarding heart failure and any issues or questions you have, for the rest of your time with the LVAD.
- Transplant psychologist: The psychologist will complete an assessment of your mental health to ensure you can handle the stress and complexity of having an LVAD.
- Social worker: Our social worker will assess your support system and help you to identify financial resources. This includes conducting a family meeting where you and at least two support people will discuss your responsibilities after getting the LVAD.
- Palliative care physician: A palliative care physician can help you understand the severity of your illness and offer emotional and spiritual support. This doctor will meet with you to explore options for the future. You will be asked to complete a durable power of attorney and express your wishes for care should your condition get worse.
- Registered dietitian: We’ll perform a dietary evaluation and make recommendations to improve your nutrition. This is especially important for people who are overweight, underweight or those who have diabetes.
- Financial coordinator: One of our financial coordinators will evaluate your insurance coverage associated with the LVAD. Depending on your insurance coverage, you may have extra costs and copays for the medical care associated with your LVAD. Along with our social worker, they can help identify financial resources available to you.
If you are considering a change in insurance, it is important to contact the financial coordinator or social worker, so we can avoid gaps in coverage that may delay or prevent LVAD implant.
Learn more about LVADs
You can also read our patient stories to see how others have lived on LVAD support, and learn more about how the device works, the surgical process and about important life changes you’ll need to make. If you would like to meet an LVAD patient, we can often arrange this as well.