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Percutaneous Ventricular Assist Device

A percutaneous ventricular assist device (PVAD) is a small mechanical pump that gives short-term support to the heart from a few hours up to 15 days. It's typically used to give your heart time to strengthen if you have heart failure due to heart surgery or a heart attack.

The PVAD is worn outside the body, on your abdominal wall, and is connected to the circulatory system by inserting tubes into the femoral artery. It connects to a driver that operates the pump and a controller that provides feedback when adjusting or repairing your system.

PVADs are most often used as temporary support in preparation for LVAD (left ventricular assist device) implantation. They can help increase heart function and blood circulation until doctors can implement a long-term therapy to treat advanced disease.

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)—a method that uses a catheter to place a stent in vessels—is increasingly used in cases where open vascular surgery is too risky.

Why choose Presbyterian for your percutaneous ventricular assist device (PVAD)?

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care has a skilled interventional cardiology team who can provide a wide range of interventional and structural heart treatments. Their interventional cardiologists are trained in many different techniques and procedures, many of which can provide you with a shorter recovery period and the opportunity to recover at home.

Who is eligible for a percutaneous ventricular assist device (PVAD)?

Your doctor may consider a PVAD for you if:

  • You're waiting for a heart transplant.

  • You need long-term treatment for heart failure.

  • You need temporary support while your heart heals.

Your doctor will review several factors to decide if a VAD is appropriate, including whether:

  • Your heart failure can tolerate a VAD.

  • Your ventricle(s) need help to function well.

  • You're able to take blood-thinning medications.

  • You have other medical conditions that may affect your quality of life.

Your doctor will also evaluate your condition with several tests, including:

  • Chest X-ray: This test helps your doctor see your heart and lungs' size and shape.

  • Echocardiogram: In this test, sound waves produce a video image of the heart. This helps determine your heart valves' pumping function and the cause of your heart failure.

  • Blood tests: Your doctor may order blood tests to check your liver, kidney, and thyroid.

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): An electrocardiogram records the electrical activity of your heart.

  • Cardiac catheterization: This test uses a catheter (long, thin tube that enters your blood vessels) to measure the pressure and blood flow in your heart.

What conditions can be treated with a percutaneous ventricular assist device (PVAD)?

A weak heart or chronic heart failure can be treated with PVAD.

How do I prepare for a percutaneous ventricular assist device (PVAD)?

Your doctor and treatment team will explain what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.

You'll need to have your hair shaved off the area where the procedure will take place.

Discuss the help you may need with your family. Your doctor will give you specific instructions for your recovery at home.

Talk to your doctor about:

  • Any allergies you have.

  • Whether you can take your regular medications before your surgery.

  • When you should stop eating or drinking the night before the surgery.

Your treatment team may recommend that you bring several items to the hospital, including:

  • A list of your medications.

  • Loose-fitting, comfortable clothing.

  • A copy of your advance directive.

  • Eyeglasses, hearing aids, or dentures.

  • Items that may help you relax, such as portable music players or books.

  • Personal care items, such as a brush, comb, shaving equipment, and toothbrush.

What should I expect during my percutaneous ventricular assist device (PVAD)?

In the PVAD procedure, the actual pump is inserted through a catheter in the leg, neck or armpit and guided through the arteries to the heart.

The PVAD consists of a mini pump motor, an inlet area situated in the left or right ventricle that draws blood into the device, and an outlet area in the aorta or pulmonary artery that expels blood into the body or lungs.

How do I care for myself after my percutaneous ventricular assist device (PVAD)?

You'll need follow-up appointments with your doctor once a week for the first month.

Follow-up appointments may include a physical examination, several tests and making sure the device is working well. These follow-up appointments will be less often as you recover.

Your doctor may also recommend that you participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program to improve your long term health and recovery. Cardiac rehabilitation will help you adopt healthy lifestyle changes.

You may be able to return to many of your daily life activities. Your doctor can discuss what activities are appropriate for you.

Lifestyle changes you can make to improve your heart health include:

  • Reduce salt in your diet.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Never smoke, or stop smoking.
  • Drink only moderate amounts of alcohol, if any. This means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, rich in fresh fruit and vegetables but low in saturated fats, processed sugar, and salt.
  • If you have diabetes, work closely with your doctor to make sure it is controlled.
  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical exercise every week.