Implantable Ventricular Assist Devices

If you have a failing or damaged heart, you may need a mechanical pump known as a ventricular assist device (VAD). University of Minnesota Physicians Heart at Fairview offers one of the most extensive mechanical support device programs in the country.

We are a national leader, having implanted more than 600 VADs in total, an average of more than 60 VAD implants each year. In some patients, a VAD has mended weakened cardiac tissue. This not only benefits the individual patient, but offers our researchers the opportunity to better understand the molecular basis of heart failure.

We have pioneered mechanical circulatory support (MCS) bridge-to-transplantation clinical trials and 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 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 that 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.

The two main objectives of LVAD implantation are:

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.


Bridge-to-transplant therapy

Implantable left ventricular assist devices are made available as a bridge 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. Because of the limited supply of donor hearts, only about 2,000 heart transplants are performed in the U.S. each year.

Destination therapy

In the last few years, destination therapy has become a 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.

In the growing field of destination therapy, the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview has shown such notable success that it is an international training site for surgical teams from other hospitals.

Experience and leadership

The University of Minnesota Physicians Heart team includes cardiovascular surgeons with 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 effectiveness of using left ventricular assist devices as permanent therapy for patients. Our program continues to be in the vanguard for clinical evaluation of second- and third-generation devices. Thanks to this work, LVADs are now smaller, less complicated, easier to place and, more importantly, more durable for patients.

1Rose EA et al, NEJM 2001;345:1435-43.
2Miller LW et al, NEJM 2007; 357: 885-96.
3John R et al Ann Thorac Surg 2011 Oct;92(4):1406-13.

Where this service is 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, MD
  • Kenneth Liao, K, MD, PhD
  • Cindy Martin, MD
  • Sofia Carolina Masri, MD
  • Emil Missov, MD, PhD
  • Marc Pritzker, MD, FACC
  • Sara J. Shumway, MD