As heart failure progresses, it can be scary to evaluate your options. And although it may not be an obvious first choice, a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) might be just the therapy you need.
An LVAD, such as those from Abbott's HeartMate™ series, not only gives people with advanced heart failure more time, but it also can improve quality of life. Some HeartMate users have had their device for more than a decade and have been able to return to activities they previously had to abandon because of their symptoms. Before opting for this kind of device therapy, it's important to understand what it entails.
Who Should Consider an LVAD?
The best course of action for treating heart failure is to start treatment early. Though there's no cure for advanced heart failure, there are methods and treatments — such as medicines and lifestyle changes — that can help people with heart failure live longer and more active lives.
But even with proper care, symptoms may get worse over time, the National Institutes of Health report. Once the disease progresses to NYHA Class III or IV, which the American Heart Association says indicates significant physical limitations and a declining quality of life, your treatment options narrow. Medications become less effective, and your doctor may start talking about a heart transplant or an LVAD.
An LVAD is an implanted mechanical device that helps your heart pump blood throughout your body when your heart is too weak to adequately pump blood on its own. With more blood flowing through your body, you'll breathe easier and feel less fatigued.
Originally, LVADs were intended to be a bridge therapy — a means of short-term circulatory support to prolong heart function long enough to enable people to wait for a heart transplant. However, not everyone is a good candidate for a transplant, and the University of California San Francisco Health notes that even eligible candidates often wait more than six months for a donor heart. Abbott's HeartMate II™ and HeartMate 3™ LVADs are approved as destination therapy or long-term support, which means they can be a permanent treatment option for those who need it.
Many HeartMate users have seen significant improvement in their symptoms; they've been able to return to enjoying the exercises, work and hobbies they didn't have the energy to participate in, and they've had more quality time to spend with friends and family.
Is an LVAD Right for Me?
If you're diagnosed with advanced heart failure, you and your doctor will likely be talking about your next steps. An LVAD could be a good option.
LVAD surgery is often performed at an advanced heart failure center. These specialized facilities are usually part of larger hospitals or academic medical centers, and they provide advanced technologies and treatments for heart failure that other clinics can't.
Before committing to the procedure, your care team will conduct an extensive evaluation, during which you'll review the risks and benefits of the surgery and have all your questions answered. Surgery to implant the devices typically takes about three to six hours; during your recovery, your care team will review how to use the device, explain its components and discuss how you'll make your LVAD a part of your daily routine.
You, your loved ones and your doctors will ultimately make the decision together. Ask your doctor about when an LVAD may be appropriate and whether you're a good candidate for this device therapy.
An LVAD could be a life-changing option if you're living with advanced heart failure. Start by talking to your doctor about your disease and what a heart pump would mean for your future. Use our online search to find a HeartMate LVAD Center near you.