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What To Expect Before Ventricular Assist Device Surgery

Before you get a ventricular assist device (VAD), you'll spend some time in the hospital to prepare for the surgery. You might already be in the hospital getting treatment for heart failure.

During this time, you'll learn about the VAD and how to live with it. You and your caregivers will spend time with your surgeon, cardiologist (heart specialist), and nurses to make sure you have all the information you need about the VAD.

Before and after the surgery, you and your caregivers will learn:

  • How the VAD works.
  • How to safely handle the VAD.
  • How to interpret and respond to alarms. (The device gives warnings, or alarms, if the power is low or if it isn't working right.)
  • How to provide care in case of emergency, such as the loss of electrical power.
  • How you should wash and shower.
  • How the VAD may affect travel.

You can ask to see what the device looks like and how it will be attached inside your body. You also may meet with someone who already has a VAD. This person can answer questions about what it feels like to have a VAD and how to live with the device.

Your doctors will make sure that your body is strong enough for the surgery. If your doctors think your body is too weak, you may need to get extra nutrition through a feeding tube before surgery.

You also may have tests to make sure you're ready for surgery. These tests include:

  • Blood tests. Blood tests can check how well your liver and kidneys are working. Blood tests also can check the levels of blood cells and important chemicals in your blood.
  • Chest x ray. This test creates a picture of the structures inside your chest, such as your heart and lungs. A chest x ray can help your doctor prepare for surgery.
  • EKG (electrocardiogram). This test can check how well your heart is working before the VAD surgery. An EKG records the heart's electrical activity.
  • Echocardiography (echo). This test uses sound waves to create a detailed picture of your heart. Echo shows the size and shape of your heart and how well your heart's chambers and valves are working.
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Ventricular Assist Device Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Ventricular Assist Device, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.

 
March 31, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.