Munson Health
Heart Assist System Implantation

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by Polsdorfer R

(Ventricular Assist Device; VAD)


What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

If you need a VAD, it is because your heart is failing. Most likely, you will be on a list to receive a heart transplant. You may already be in the hospital. Your doctor will do many tests, including:
Leading up to the procedure, your doctor will instruct you to:
  • Avoid eating for 8 hours before the procedure
  • Stop taking certain medications for one week before surgery. Medications often stopped include:
    • Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen
    • Blood thinners
    • Anti-platelet medications


General anesthesia will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.

Description of the Procedure

This procedure involves open heart surgery. The doctor will make an incision down the length of your breast bone. The breast bone will then be split and separated. You will be placed on a heart-lung machine. This machine will take the place of your heart and lungs during the surgery. The doctor will place the VAD into a pocket on the inside of the abdominal wall. Tubes will be sewn to your heart. Tubes may also be sewn to your aorta, depending on the type of device.

Immediately After Procedure

You will be in the intensive care unit (ICU) after the procedure. You will be connected to many tubes. The medical staff will monitor you.

How Long Will It Take?

About 4-8 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

You will have pain from the surgery. Ask your doctor about medications to help with the pain.

Average Hospital Stay

  • 2-5 days in the ICU
  • 2-4 weeks in a regular hospital room

Postoperative Care

At Home
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
  • Stay in contact with the heart center. You may be waiting for a heart transplant.
  • Slowly increase your activity as instructed. Ask your doctor if you will be able to return to work.
  • Take blood thinners as advised by your doctor. These will prevent blood clots.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. Instructions will include:
    • How to take care of your VAD
    • When to contact the hospital—Make sure that you know how to call your doctor if you have an emergency.
Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.


American Heart Association

United States Food and Drug Administration



Health Canada

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada



The Randomized Evaluation of Mechanical Assistance for the Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure (REMATCH) trial. NEJM. 2001 Volume345:1435-1443

Slaughter M, Milano C, et al. Advanced heart failure treated with continuous-flow ventricular assist device. N Engl J Med. 2009; DOI:101056/NEJMoa0909938.

Ventricular assist devices (VAD). Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: Updated December 2009. Accessed August 9, 2013.

3/6/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Peura JL, Colvin-Adams M, Francis GS, et al. Recommendations for the use of mechanical circulatory support: device strategies and patient selection: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012;126(22):2648-2667.


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