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URMC / URMC Cardiology / Patient Care / Treatments and Procedures / Ventricular Assist Device

Ventricular Assist Device

What it’s for

Heart failure is a severely debilitating disease. The heart can no longer supply enough blood to support the body’s needs. As a result, people with heart failure feel tired much of the time, unable to do even the simplest tasks of daily life.

Heart failure can often be treated effectively with medications. When medications are not effective, heart transplant may be the best treatment.

For some people—such as older patients—heart transplant is not be an option. Fortunately, many of these patients may be helped by a Ventricular Assist Device, also known as a VAD.

A VAD does not replace your heart, but works alongside it. It is a mechanical pump not much bigger than your finger that is surgically implanted next to your heart. It then runs on power from a battery pack that you carry at your side, constantly helping your heart to pump blood.

VADs have been shown to dramatically improve heart failure symptoms in many patients. Survival rates for patients with VADs are quickly approaching those of patients with heart transplants.

VADs can also be used as a bridge to a transplant. In other words, a temporary VAD can be used to help you become healthier while you are waiting for a donor heart to become available.

How it’s done

Open heart surgery is required to implant a VAD. You will be under general anesthesia for this procedure.

Your surgeon opens up your sternum to reveal your heart. While the VAD is being implanted, your heart is stopped and you are put on the heart lung machine. The heart lung machine supplies your body with the blood it needs during your surgery.

The VAD is attached to your left ventricle and to your aorta. Your surgeon also attaches the VAD to an external power supply. Once the VAD is turned on, you will be disconnected from the heart lung machine and your incision will be closed.

The VAD works by helping your heart pump blood from your left ventricle into your aorta. From there, the blood circulates throughout your body.

After your surgery, you stay in the ICU for 2-3 days. You are then moved to a regular hospital room where you work with nurses and physical therapists as you recover.

Most patients receiving a VAD return home within 2-4 weeks. There are several medications you will need to take regularly, such a blood thinner to prevent the formation of blood clots in your VAD.


There are several important risks to consider before having a VAD implanted. Your doctors will discuss all of these risks with you.

  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Device malfunction
  • Respiratory failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke
  • Right heart failure

Technology and expertise at URMC

URMC is one of the most experienced VAD centers in the country. We are a national leader in VAD clinical trials and have been involved in most of the major VAD clinical trials of the past ten years. We have implanted over 170 VAD in the past 10 years.

The Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation has helped many heart failure patients experience improved health with VADs. We are able to offer our patients the most advanced and effective VADs.

HeartMate II. This VAD was developed with the goal of providing 10 years of support.

CentriMag. We are the only center in the nation to be chosen to train other centers in the use of CentriMag, considered a first-line VAD for acute patients.

Jarvik 2000. The Jarvik 2000 VAD has supported patients for as long as 8 years.

SynCardia. URMC is the first and only medical center in upstate New York to implant the SynCardia total artificial heart.

Many of the patients we have treated with VADs are highly functional, often participating in activities like hiking, golf and camping.

Through housing such as Harbor House of Rochester, we provide safe and supportive lodging for families traveling to Rochester for heart failure treatment.

We are the only center in the region that offers VAD to patients.

View our Heart Surgery Video.

Joint Commission award

Meet a fellow VAD patient.

URMC is the first in the region to receive Advanced Certification from the Joint Commission for Heart Failure and for Ventricular Assist Devices.

Who to contact

For more information on the Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation at URMC, contact us at (585) 273-3760.