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What is a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)?

An LVAD, often called a heart pump or VAD, is a mechanical device that circulates blood throughout the body when the heart is too weak to pump blood on its own.

An LVAD is not an artificial heart, nor is it a heart replacement as your heart is not removed.

The LVAD, or pump, is attached to your heart and is designed to assist or take over the pumping function of your left ventricle which is the main pumping chamber of the heart.

Inside the pump is a small motor than turns the rotor which moves blood from the heart to the rest of the body. One end connects to the left ventricle and the other end connects to a large blood vessel, the aorta which sends blood around the body.

The pump cable/line is tunnelled down from the pump through the abdomen. It is connected to a modular cable by a modular in-line connector and these two cables are referred to as the driveline.

The driveline is connected to the system controller via a controller driveline connector.

The system controller controls and checks the pump. On the controller there will is a user interface that features icons and buttons that will:

  • Display data in the form of numbers which you will learn how to interpret
  • Allow you to monitor battery levels
  • Identify problems with the system operations
  • Raise an alarm with lights, sounds and an on-screen message

The driveline going through your skin connects to the pump inside your body with the system controller outside. The pump will stop if the driveline is disconnected from the system controller.

There are a further two cables connected to the system controller, a black and a white cable, these are power cables. Each cable is connected to a battery clip in which you insert a special battery. You will always need two batteries at a time. Batteries are used to power the LVAD and can last up to 17 hours. At least one power cable must be connected to a power source at all times.

At night the LVAD will be powered by a mobile power unit (MPU) that can be plugged into an electrical outlet. Electrical power will be carried from an electrical outlet through the MPU patient cable. This cable connects the MPU to the system controller.

The model of LVAD that we use here at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham is called a HeartMate 3™.

Last reviewed: 24 May 2023