Common myths on Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

Earlier, LVADs were considered as ‘bridge therapy’ until a suitable donor heart could be procured for transplant.

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By Dr. Hemant Pramod Pathare

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle cannot pump blood as well as it should. Conditions such as narrowed arteries or high blood pressure, gradually leave the heart too weak or too stiff to fill adequately and pump efficiently. Patients with heart failure thus often feel fatigued and experience a decrease in their ability to engage in daily activities. Some common symptoms are shortness of breath or swelling of the ankles, rapid or irregular heartbeat and congestion.   

In a condition like chronic heart failure, a heart transplant, or Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) are the two-time tested modalities for management of the condition. However, a heart transplant is usually not preferred above the age of 70 years or due to concomitant health factors. Finding a compatible heart donor for the recipient is also challenging. LVADs are a viable option for all adult patients up to 75 years of age. A LVAD is a small, battery-operated device that is implanted into the left ventricle of the heart (the main pumping chamber). Earlier, LVADs were considered as ‘bridge therapy’ until a suitable donor heart could be procured for transplant. But in past few years, LVAD devices have technologically advanced and become small enough to fit in the palm of our hand and have revolutionized cardiac care. LVADs are now approved as “destination therapy” worldwide for patients with advanced end stage heart failure who may not want a heart transplant or are not fit for one.

By evaluating the right management option, heart failure patients can lead a quality life. However, there are certain myths around LVADs that need attention:

Myth #1: Patients can’t live an active life with an LVAD – FALSE

Fact: LVAD study shows significant improvement in patient quality of life and functional status. An LVAD device helps a patient lead a more active life by increasing the blood flow to the body, and improves the function of the kidneys, liver, brain, and other organs. It also impacts the patient’s strength and ability to participate in regular activities such as walking, running, exercise and yoga. Patients have run half marathons after an LVAD.

Myth #2: LVADs survival is not similar to a heart transplant – FALSE

Fact: An LVAD is a centrifugal titanium pump used to treat severe heart failure and 5-year survival results of Heartmate3 approach those of heart transplant.

Myth #3: Heart failure diagnosis means that you’re going to need LVAD surgery or a heart transplant – FALSE

Fact: Transplant Surgeons do not perform surgery unless it’s absolutely necessary and always begin with aggressive drug therapy. Majority of patients will do well with medical treatment for a few years but eventually more aggressive form of management including LVAD surgery or transplantation might be recommended to support your heart more efficiently.

Myth #4: LVADs are only for younger patients -FALSE

Fact: While the focus for this innovative treatment is for patients 70 or younger, there is no ageism with the LVAD. Under the right circumstances — including a willingness to take medications as prescribed and with the benefit of a strong support system — LVADs can lead to good results in people in their early- 80s as well.

(The author is a Director for Heart & Lung Transplant, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre , Mumbai. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the

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First published on: 14-03-2023 at 10:00 IST
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