LVAD Surgery, Education and Rehabilitation
Our team will work with you and your family before and after LVAD surgery, to help ensure the best treatment outcome.
Once you have completed the LVAD screening process and your Henry Ford care team has decided that this is the right treatment for you, we’ll schedule your surgery date and you will be given special instructions for the days leading up to your surgery.
Important considerations for LVAD surgery
- Long hospital stay: Many people undergo LVAD evaluation while in the hospital and are too sick to go home prior to surgery, so it is important that you and your family are prepared for a long hospital stay. The average person remains in the hospital 16-20 days after surgery. Our social worker can often assist family members in securing temporary housing.
- Location: We perform all LVAD surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. If you are not staying in the hospital already, you will be admitted 2-5 days prior to the day of surgery.
- Surgery time: LVAD surgery takes several hours. It is reasonable to tell your loved ones that you will be in the operating room for 4-6 hours.
- Cardiac ICU: You will come out of the operating room on a ventilator and sedated. You will then go to our cardiac intensive care unit (the P5 CVICU, fifth floor) where nurses and critical care specialists with additional training in cardiovascular care and LVAD support can monitor your condition. The surgeon will speak with your designated loved ones about your surgery and will continue to visit you during your hospital stay.
- Family spokespersons: It is important to designate 1-2 family members as your spokespersons. These individuals should relay status updates to your other family members during surgery. Nursing staff and providers will keep the designated family members up to date of any significant events. The staff is working hard to care for you during this time, so it will not be possible to call several family members several times a day.
Postoperative LVAD education and rehabilitation
After your LVAD surgery, you’ll begin education and recovery boot camp, meeting regularly with physical and occupational therapists. You and your family will also work with our LVAD coordinators and nursing staff to begin the LVAD education process:
- Dedicated LVAD nurses: Our team includes dedicated nurses with special training on LVAD devices. These nurses are your LVAD coordinators and they are available around the clock if you have any questions about your device.
- Education sessions: These will be scheduled with you and your designated family members. Prior to discharge, you and your designated family members must demonstrate a safe ability to handle their LVAD.
- Designated family members: All designated family members must attend scheduled LVAD education sessions. Your success relies on the support of loved ones.
- Physical therapy: This will start early after LVAD, and you may even receive some therapy while on a ventilator. The physical therapist will focus on strength and balance so you are able to safely get around with your LVAD at home.
- Inpatient rehabilitation: Many people go to inpatient rehabilitation for 1-4 weeks after LVAD surgery. If you are over the age of 60, you can expect to go to inpatient rehabilitation. This is located at one of our other hospitals, where physical and occupational therapists will focus on getting you strong enough to get around safely with your LVAD at home.
- Medication education: You will receive education on your heart medications and blood thinners, which are an important part of your medical therapy after LVAD surgery.
- A note on blood thinner medications: You will be placed on the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin). Other anticoagulants on the market (such as Eliquis) have not clearly been shown to be safe people on LVAD support at this time. You must have your warfarin levels monitored by our Henry Ford anticoagulation clinic. We will work with you to arrange lab draws locally or home INR testing (which measures how long it takes your blood to clot) when insurance allows. You will also get training on enoxaparin (Lovenox), which is a shot you may need if your blood thinner level drops too low.
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, screening to determine if you’re eligible for an LVAD and important life changes you’ll need to make. If you would like to meet an LVAD patient, we can often arrange this as well.
LVAD support group
After your LVAD implant, you can also join our support group, which offers information and support for you and your family. The group meets every month at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. If you would like to attend, please talk to your Henry Ford advanced heart failure physician or nurse coordinator to get more information.