Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

A lifeline for hearts in need

What is ventricular assist device (VAD) therapy?

Ventricular assist device (VAD) therapy is a complex treatment that can be a lifesaver if you have advanced heart failure. VADs are surgically implanted pumps that help your heart pump blood more effectively, improving your symptoms and quality of life. 

Late stage, or advanced, heart failure doesn’t mean that your heart is about to stop working or that you’ve run out of treatment options. It simply means that conservative treatments, such as medications, are no longer working. You may be experiencing shortness of breath and other symptoms, even at rest. 

A VAD can be a bridge-to-transplant therapy or a longer-term therapy for people who have advanced heart failure but aren’t candidates for heart transplant. 

Who's a candidate?

VAD therapy may be an option if you: 

  • have severe heart failure that’s not responding to other treatments 
  • are significantly limited in doing or completely unable to do physical activity
  • are willing and able to follow instructions for VAD therapy, including taking medications, attending follow-up appointments and making lifestyle changes

Talk to your doctor to learn more about VAD therapy and whether it's right for you.

What to expect

Before the procedure: 

  • You'll go through several tests to assess your heart function and overall health. 
  • We'll educate you about VAD therapy and how to care for the device and manage your heart failure. 

During the procedure:

  • VAD surgery typically lasts four to eight hours. 

After the procedure:

  • Recovery from VAD surgery typically takes two to four weeks in the hospital. 
  • You may need to go to a rehabilitation center before going home. 
  • You'll have regular follow-up appointments with your heart failure team. 
  • You'll receive prescriptions for heart medications and a long-term blood thinner. 
  • You’ll have pain after surgery, but it should improve daily and go away before you’re discharged from the hospital. 
  • Your strength and activity level should increase over time. 
  • You won't be able to swim or be submerged in water with a VAD.

Benefits

If you have end-stage heart failure, VAD therapy can lead to improvements such as: 

  • improved physical strength and activity: Your increased energy levels should allow you to participate in favorite activities and regain independence. 
  • reduced heart failure symptoms: VAD therapy effectively manages symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue and fluid retention, enhancing your overall comfort and well-being. 
  • increased life expectancy: VAD therapy is proven to significantly extend life expectancy with severe heart failure. That can mean more time for cherishing moments with loved ones.

The latest advances in VAD offer exciting, new benefits including:

  • smaller pumps that result in smaller incisions
  • easy-to-manage, wearable system
  • lower-dose medication
  • overall improved long-term outcomes
York Hospital Recruitment Stills_HV209577

Collaborative, comprehensive care

Our team works closely alongside your primary care doctor and other specialists for comprehensive care. You'll stay in the care of your long-term care team and close to home. And all the while, you'll have access to our exceptional cardiac interventional and electrophysiology teams if needed.

Highly specialized facilities

We perform VAD surgery and hospital care at WellSpan York Hospital. There, you'll be in the care of specialty-trained nursing staff in our cardiac-exclusive intensive care and intermediate care units. Later, you'll follow up at our Heart and Vascular Center in York, often with support from your local WellSpan cardiology office.

Top-level certification

Our VAD program has long been certified by The Joint Commission and consistently has among the highest volume in our region, with excellent outcomes.