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Sharp Health News

How it works: LVAD (infographic)

Feb. 23, 2017

Advanced heart failure is a serious condition that occurs when the heart does not pump as well as it should. If advanced treatment becomes necessary, a left ventricular assist device, also known as an LVAD, can give a failing heart the help it needs.

At Sharp Memorial Hospital, more than 500 patients with advanced heart failure have received an LVAD — helping them live longer and better lives. We asked cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Walter Dembitsky to tell us how it works.

How it works: LVAD (infographic). When the heart needs help, an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) can be its most trusted companion - allowing people to live longer, better lives. Patients suffering from advanced heart failure - a serious condition that can occur when the heart does not pump as well as it should - may need an LVAD. A failing heart can cause a variety of concerns, including the following: A sedentary existence. Swelling of the legs. Shortness of breath. Rapid heartbeat. Weakness, tiredness and dizziness. Difficulty thinking. An LVAD can improve the length of life. But more importantly, an LVAD improves the quality of life. According to Dr. Walter Dembitsky, a cardiothoracic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Memorial Hospital, thirty to 50 patients per year receive long-term LVADs at Sharp Memorial Hospital. Sharp Memorial Hospital has remained at the forefront of LVAD technology since our program began in 1987, Dr. Dembitsky says. At that time, the devices were designed to support sick patients for a matter of days to weeks. Now, patients of all ages can live with these pumps for more than a decade. The piggy-back pump of an LVAD attaches to the heart, aiding in the function of the left ventricle. While the right ventricle pumps blood only to the lungs, the left ventricle pumps blood to the rest of the body. Here's how an LVAD works: Batteries are worn outside the body, in a holster. The controller supplies continuous power to the LVAD and is worn outside the body on a belt. The power cord is inserted into the body through a small hole in the abdomen. Blood is received from the heart. Blood is pumped into the aorta.

View the printable version of this infographic.

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