A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical device used to take over the pumping function for one or both of the heart’s ventricles, or pumping chambers. A VAD may be necessary when heart failure progresses to the point that medications and other treatments are no longer effective. A VAD can be used as a bridge to transplant for a person who is waiting for a heart transplant.

A ventricular assist device has three parts: A pump, placed inside or outside of your belly; an electronic controller, which is like a small computer that controls how the pump works; and batteries, connected to the pump with a cable that goes into your belly. You will need general anesthesia when your VAD is implanted.

You may need a VAD if you have severe congestive heart failure that cannot be controlled with medicine, a special pacemaker, or other treatments. You may be on a waiting list for a heart transplant. Some patients who get a VAD are very ill and may already be on a heart-lung bypass machine. Patients with severe heart failure may not be good candidates for this procedure.