The left ventricle of the heart is responsible for pumping blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The LVAD differs from an artificial heart because it helps the heart pump more blood to the body with less work, whereas an artificial heart replaces the heart completely.
An LVAD is needed when a patient is in the advanced stages of heart failure and the heart cannot pump enough blood for the body. With the lack of donor hearts to replace a failing heart, the LVAD is the next best alternative.
They can be used for three things. Health providers could implant an LVAD as a temporary fix while a person waits for a donor heart. Or the LVAD could be a destination therapy, where a patient may be implanted with an LVAD if they are not eligible for a heart transplant. The third way LVADs are used is for bridge-to-recovery cases where the device is implanted so that the heart can regain its strength with the help of the LVAD.
How does it work?
An LVAD has internal and external components. The internal components include a pump that rests on or adjacent to the heart’s left ventricle with a tube that acts as the pathway for blood to travel from the left ventricle to the aorta. A driveline cable is attached to the pump and goes out through the skin to connect to an internal mechanical pump and an external controller with a power source attached to the outside of a patient’s body.
The driveline and power source need to be connected at all times for mechanical circulatory support to function. Power sources can include a form of a battery, an AC adaptor or DC adaptor and the controller requires two power sources connected at all times. Most controllers for LVADs have a built-in warning system to alert a patient if their batteries are running low.