What is a VAD/LVAD?

Ventricular Assist Device or VAD (also called Left Ventricular Assist Device or LVAD) implantation is one of the ways the highly skilled cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons at Nebraska Heart extend the lives of patients with heart failure or advanced heart failure.

An LVAD is a small pump that is surgically implanted inside the chest to help a weakened heart provide mechanical circulation of blood to the body. Unlike a heart transplant, an LVAD does not replace the heart, but instead helps a weakened heart do its job.

The LVAD is connected to a “control unit” that runs the pump. The control unit is outside the body is connected to the pump by the “driveline” and can be worn on a belt around your waist. It also has a separate power unit.

The LVAD pulls blood from the lower chamber of the heart (left ventricle) and pushes it to the aorta, which carries the blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The LVAD improves blood circulation, may relieve symptoms and allows patients to resume normal activity.

Types of LVAD Candidates

A VAD is considered in patients with end-stage heart failure—whether it is acute or chronic—and medical therapy is no longer working. Heart failure develops when the pumping chambers of the heart contract poorly and are unable to supply enough blood to vital organs. Heart failure is usually a chronic disease that slowly gets worse. It can also happen suddenly or acutely due to a virus or another problem within the body. In other people, the first episode of heart failure may be very severe and require urgent treatment.

  • Bridge-to-Transplant candidates are patients who are eligible for a heart transplant but have become too sick to wait until a suitable donor heart is available. The LVAD is temporary for them and provides enough blood flow to the body while they are waiting for a transplant. It may also allow patients to exercise so they are as physically fit as possible when it is time for their transplant.
  • Bridge-to-Recovery is when LVADs are used to “rest” the native heart over a period of weeks to months, and is then removed. This holds the promise of permitting other treatments to restore the native heart to full function, avoiding the need for transplant.
  • Destination Therapy candidates are patients who will have an LVAD as their permanent treatment for their heart failure. They have problems which make them unable to have a heart transplant or they do not want to receive a heart transplant. Nebraska Heart offers a destination therapy program for LVADs.

We are proud to offer a shared care model for LVAD needs. With this model of treatment, the Nebraska Heart LVAD team works with the patient’s primary cardiologist in their community to provide the expertise necessary to help patients to return to their normal routine after surgery and makes ongoing follow-up care more convenient.

Goals of LVAD Placement

  1. Relief from Heart Failure:  Patients with an LVAD can expect an improvement in heart failure symptoms.
  2. Improved Quality of Life:  Patients can expect to return to a more active lifestyle even though there are some restrictions (no swimming, contact sports or jumping). A doctor will explain exactly what activities can be performed with an LVAD.
  3. A Longer Life:  Studies have shown that heart failure patients with LVADs have an improved survival rate compared to patients who only receive medical therapy for their heart failure. If your doctor recommends a VAD for you, it should be viewed as your BEST option for improving quality of life and living longer.

VAD Risks

As with any surgery, there are possible risks that go along with having a VAD. Possible risks include bleeding, infection, blood clots, stroke, kidney failure, or failure of the device. Your doctor will explain these risks and others that might apply.

Why Choose Nebraska Heart for VAD Implantation?

  • Since 2014, Nebraska Heart has implanted 26 VAD devices, serving patients from North Platte, Neb., to Iowa. We are a VAD destination therapy facility for mechanical circulatory support (MCS).
  • Nebraska Heart’s heart failure services include a Joint Commission-accredited ventricular assist device (VAD) program.
  • Nebraska Heart has received a five-star hospital rating from CMS Hospital Compare. We are one of only 102 hospitals nationally to achieve this designation (top 3%).
  • Our expert multidisciplinary team provides a comprehensive health evaluation to determine whether a VAD is the right option for you. Our team of heart failure physicians, cardiac surgeons, advanced practice nurses, LVAD coordinators and other professionals is proud of our distinctions, which recognize Nebraska Heart as an expert in the management of complex heart failure patients needing LVAD implantation.

The VAD Team

Cardiovascular Surgeons: Implant the VAD

  • Sagar Damle, M.D.
  • James Wudel, M.D

Heart Failure Cardiologists: Care for patients before and after VAD surgery

  • Gina Mentzer, M.D
  • Anuj Jain, MD
  • Adnan Khalid, MD

Perfusionists: Specially trained individuals who help with VAD implantation and management of it after surgery

  • Steve White
  • Kent Hoxmeier
  • Andrew Bonness

VAD Coordinators: Educate patients before and after VAD implantation, and manage care after implantation of the VAD

  • Rachel Smith, RN
  • Kelly Stutzman, RN

The VAD team is committed to:

  • Providing evidence-based heart disease care and a full range of advanced cardiac life support for people with acute and end-stage heart failure
  • Educating patients about heart failure and helping with lifestyle changes: The VAD team teaches patients about their new VAD, taking care of incision sites, provides home care instructions and emphasizes the importance of nutrition and exercise. We reinforce existing healthy habits teach patients how to start new healthy behaviors and live a healthier lifestyle.

VAD Services

  • Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) implants
  • Centrimag
  • Impella
  • CardioMEMS (remote access of pulmonary artery pressure)
  • Tandem Heart
  • Latitude Patients (remote monitoring of pacemakers and defibrillators) – More than 3,500 enrolled
  • VAD interrogative resources across the region
  • LUCAS Device
  • CardioHelp


Contact Nebraska Heart’s VAD program at 402-327-2700.