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Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs)

Cardiologist Eric Adler, MD, and heart patient Jeff Hambrick talk about the technology of a VAD and what it means for patients living with a device.

Ventricular assist devices, or VADs, are used to treat heart failure. Also known as heart pumps, VADs are mechanical pumping devices designed to help the heart pump more blood. They work by taking blood from the heart and pumping it to the rest of the body, thus taking the burden off the heart.

Types of Ventricular Assist Devices

  • Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs)
  • Biventricular assist devices (bi-VADs)
  • Right ventricular assist devices (RVADs)
  • Percutaneous ventricular assist devices (Impella and TandemHeart™)

Impella and TandemHeart Devices

Percutaneous VADs, including Impella or TandemHeart, are designed to help support a heart until it can be repaired. They can be inserted in our cardiac catheterization lab, and keep the heart beating until lifesaving therapy, such as angioplasty or stenting, can be performed.

Artificial Heart

A total artificial heart (TAH) is a device that is used to replace both chambers of your heart. It is used to extend life in a very small group of people with end-stage heart failure who are waiting for a donor heart.

Who Is a Candidate for a VAD?

Your doctor may recommend a ventricular assist device to help you heart work better if you:

  • Are waiting for a heart transplant
  • Need temporary support while you heart heals
  • Need a long-term treatment for heart failure

How VADs Are Implanted

​​Most ventricular assist devices (LVADs, RVADs and bi-VADs) are implanted during open-heart surgery through an incision in the chest. The blood is rerouted to a heart-lung machine to be pumped and oxygenated. The surgeon forms a pocket for the VAD in the abdominal wall, and a tube is used to channel blood from the ventricle to the device.

Another tube is used to connect the pump to the aorta. Once the pump begins to work and support the heart, the patient is removed from the heart-lung machine and the incision is closed.

Percutaneous VADs (Impella and TandemHeart™) are inserted with a catheter through a blood vessel and do not require open-heart surgery.

Read about our novel operative approach using two ventricular assist devices.

Why Choose UC San Diego Health?

Fewer than 110 facilities are approved for VAD destination therapy. UC San Diego Health is one of only two San Diego-based systems and eight California-based systems offering this option. Our patient success outcomes exceed national averages.

Our Disease-Specific Care (DSC) Certification for Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) is approved by The Joint Commission, a leading nonprofit healthcare accrediting body

Patient Spotlight


Hortencia Wagner had heart failure and her heart was functioning at just 13 percent. She had surgery for a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to save her life. She shares her candid experience of what it’s like.


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