Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

Located across western Virginia, Carilion Clinic is proud to offer a new treatment for patients with severe heart failure, a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), called the HeartMate II by Thoratec.

What is LVAD?

LVAD stands for Left Ventricular Assist Device, a mechanical device that circulates blood throughout the body when the heart is too weak to pump blood on its own. It is sometimes called a “heart pump” or “VAD.” The device can help improve overall organ function, allowing patients to breathe more easily and feel less tired.

HeartMate II is a miniaturized implantable LVAD that represents a breakthrough in medical technology. It is now the most widely used device of its kind in the world.

Carilion's LVAD team implants the device as both a “bridge-to-transplant” (for patients awaiting heart transplant) and “destination therapy.”The LVAD helps patients feel more energetic, often enabling them to resume normal activities.

Is HeartMate II an artificial heart?

HeartMate II is not an artificial heart, nor is it a heart replacement. The patient’s native heart is not removed. HeartMate II attaches to the heart and is designed to support the pumping function of the patient’s left ventricle.

How does HeartMate II work?

The device is placed just below the diaphragm in the abdomen. It is attached to the left ventricle, and the aorta, which is the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to the entire body. An external, wearable system that includes a small controller and two batteries is attached by an external driveline; it can be worn under or on top of clothing.

How does HeartMate II help a heart failure patient?

HeartMate II helps restore blood flow throughout the body, enabling the patient to breathe more easily and feel less fatigued. The patient’s organs will receive more blood than they did before receiving the LVAD, and this will likely improve their organ function.

Is HeartMate II a good treatment option for advanced heart failure patients?

Studies have shown that advanced heart failure patients treated with an LVAD can live longer and enjoy a much improved quality of life compared with those being treated with drug therapy alone.