Programs - University of Minnesota Physicians Heart at Fairview

Implantable Left Ventricular Assist Device

One of the largest mechanical support device programs in the country is available through University of Minnesota Physicians Heart. We are a national leader in implanting ventricular assist devices (VADs), performing more than 500 in total, or more than 60 VADs procedures each year. In some patients, the clinical application of a VAD has mended weakened cardiac tissue, offering an opportunity to understand the molecular basis of heart failure.

We are a recognized pioneer in mechanical circulatory support (MCS) bridge to transplantation clinical trials. We are one of a handful of sites in the nation approved to train surgeons in state-of-the-art transplant technologies that include Thoratec® HeartMate® II, Ventracor VentrAssist® LVAD, HeartWare® Ventricular Assist System and Levitronix® CentriMag® Pump.

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is a mechanical heart pump that can take over the pumping function of your failing or damaged heart. An LVAD consists of an implantable heart pump (the motor), the inflow and outflow cannulas (connections to the heart and aorta), a driveline which connects the pump through the skin to a system controller (a small computer), an external pump source, and a display module (to display the pump information).

The pump is connected to the left ventricle by an inflow cannula. This cannula moves the blood into the heart pump. The heart pump takes over the pumping function of the left ventricle. The blood then flows to the outflow cannula, where it is connected to the aorta. Then blood flows to the rest of the body.

There are two main objectives of LVAD implantation:

  1. To prolong a person’s life
  2. To improve quality of life

Many patients are able to return to a normal, active life within three months after their implantation surgery.

Who is eligible for an LVAD?

If you have end-stage heart disease, you are eligible for the device. LVADs help patients who would not benefit from other heart surgery, such as coronary artery bypass or valve replacement, or people who have not achieved a satisfactory quality of life from medical interventions. LVAD patients may or may not be candidates for heart transplantation.

Bridge-to-transplant therapy (BTT) and destination therapy (DT)

Implantable left ventricular assist devices are made available as a bridge to transplant for patients who need temporary support while they are waiting for a heart transplant. Heart transplantation is the gold standard for patients with end-stage heart failure. Unfortunately, only about 2,200 heart transplants are being performed in the U.S. annually because of the shortage of donor hearts. 

Destination therapy

In the last five to seven years, destination therapy has become the real alternative to heart transplantation. Destination therapy is for patients who are not eligible for a heart transplant, but who can benefit from long-term support of a heart pump.

Cardiovascular surgeons on the University of Minnesota Physicians Heart team who specialize in BTT and DT have more than 60 years of combined experience in research and clinical use of total artificial hearts and ventricular assist devices. The University of Minnesota was a leader in the landmark REMATCH trial1 that demonstrated the efficacy of using left ventricular assist devices as permanent therapy for patients, and our program continues in the vanguard in clinical evaluation of second- and third-generation devices. LVADs are now smaller, less complicated, easier to place and, more importantly, more durable for patients.

In the growing field of destination therapy, the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview has shown such notable success in the last five years that it is a national training site for surgical teams from other hospitals.

Footnote: 1. Randomized Evaluation of Mechanical Assistance for the Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure, 1999-2001. The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

Where is service performed:

University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview

Physicians who perform this procedure:

  • Monica Colvin-Adams, MD
  • Peter Eckman, MD
  • Daniel Garry, MD, PhD
  • Ranjit John, M.D.
  • Kenneth Liao, K, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Cindy Martin, MD
  • Sofia Carolina Masri, MD
  • Emil Missov, MD, PhD
  • Marc Pritzker, MD 
  • Sara J. Shumway, M.D.