The implantation of an LVAD

Just before the operation

When the decision is made to implant a supporting heart, the heart is almost no longer able to pump the blood properly. It is a last resort to prevent the patient from dying. The patient's condition is generally very bad, with some this will be more clearly visible and tangible than with others.

Before the operation actually takes place, there are a number of important tests to be done to see whether the heart is suitable for support with a pump.

The operation itself

The implantation of an LVAD is open heart surgery. Depending on the type of LVAD, the operating area is larger or smaller. For a detailed explanation of the LVAD and the different types that are used, please refer to the page What is an LVAD?

After the green light is given, the patient goes to the operating room (OR) and the operation begins, which can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours. The tube of the pump is inserted into the tip of the left ventricle and a flexible tube goes from the pump to the Aorta, the body artery. See animation clip on the right.

PAY ATTENTION Here is a description of the approximate expectations for this procedure, but every operation and every patient is different! This means that situations can be different every time, but that does not mean that they are worse or better as a result.

After the operation in the ICU

After the operation, the patient goes to the Intensive Care Unit (IC). It is not uncommon for the patient to return to the OR to stop bleeding in the chest cavity and to remove any clots.

In the ICU, the patient lies on all kinds of wires and hoses. This includes artificial respiration, tube feeding, catheter, drains to drain the fluid and a range of infusions for measurements and medication.

To get the pump going properly, it is necessary to add extra moisture. This gives the patient a swollen body.

The time that has to be spent in the ICU and the period that all aids are needed also differ per patient, but last on average between 4 and 10 days.

Back to the nursing ward again

From the IC the patient goes to the nursing ward, where physiotherapy is used to restore the condition as much as possible. It also teaches how to deal with the LVAD, how to do wound care and what to do if an alarm is triggered.

And home

As soon as immediate medical care is no longer required, you can go home. Some hospitals have a direct line to a rehabilitation center where specialized physiotherapists go to work to make sure you function well at home. In that case you can choose to go to this center before you go home.

The video below provides an extensive (English) explanation of what is mentioned above