Harvard Heart Letter

What's new with the LVAD?

The left ventricular assist device continues to find new roles in the treatment of advanced heart failure.

The left ventricular assist device (LVAD) had its moment in the media spotlight in 2010 when former Vice President Dick Cheney received the miniature implantable unit to boost his weak heart function until he became eligible for a transplant. But the expanding role of the LVAD in the treatment of people seriously ill with heart failure goes well beyond the machine's brief star turn. Over the next few years, the LVAD is poised to become the most frequently used surgical treatment for advanced heart failure, likely surpassing the number of heart transplants.

A paradigm shift

"Left ventricular assist devices have been in existence for over 40 years and have gone through technology shifts similar to the way in which cars have evolved. Just as motorized vehicles took the place of horse-drawn carriages, LVADs have provided a mechanical option to support the heart that is far better than using medications alone in the advanced stages of heart failure," says Dr. Mandeep R. Mehra, medical director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »