Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

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The Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Heart and Vascular Center was awarded the Gold Seal of Approval by The Joint Commission for their Adult VAD Destination Therapy Program.

Froedtert & the Medical College have one of the fastest growing advanced heart failure and VAD programs in the nation.

Who Needs a VAD?

Ventricular assist devices (VAD), which are surgically implanted mechanical pumps that help the heart pump blood, are being used with significant success. VADs can be a bridge to transplant – helping a patient survive months or years until a donor heart is available.

For patients who are not good transplant candidates however, the VAD can be the permanent therapy – also called “destination” therapy – improving their health and quality of life. Our success rate using a VAD as a bridge to transplant is significantly higher than the national average. Our program is also certified as a VAD Destination Therapy Program by the Joint Commission, an independent and nationally recognized health care certification organization.

Some advanced heart failure patients may not be good candidates for a heart transplant because of certain conditions such as severe lung, liver or kidney disease and cancer. For recent cancer patients, for example, the need to suppress the immune system after transplant to avoid rejection of the new heart could cause the cancer to come back.

If transplant is not an option, implanting a small, sophisticated VAD is a viable alternative as a destination therapy. Patients can return home and enjoy an improved quality of life with a VAD.

Breakthrough VAD Technology

In December 2012, an Advanced Heart Failure Program patient became the first in the U.S. to receive a new ventricular assist device outside of its clinical trial. The device, newly approved by the Food and Drug Administration, can sustain a patient at home for years until a donor heart is available. Read about this improved technology.

How Does a VAD Work?

A VAD is a mechanical pump that is surgically connected to the heart to help support blood flow and improve heart function. Different types of VADs are used, depending on the patient’s individual needs, and the power source is external, usually a mix of battery and electrical power.

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) pumps blood to the aorta from the left ventricle. The HeartMate II® is one commonly used LVAD. A right ventricular assist device (RVAD) delivers blood to the pulmonary artery from the right ventricle or right atrium. A device that performs both functions is sometimes called a BiVAD.

VADs are most commonly implanted during an open-heart surgical procedure. Patients are usually connected to a heart-lung bypass machine during the procedure. A patient’s recovery experience depends on how healthy the patient was before surgery. VAD patients are also closely monitored before, during and after the procedure, and can return to many normal activities after they are released from the hospital. 

Even after returning home, VAD patients receive comprehensive follow-up care. Long-term survival rates for VADs are still being studied, but the numbers are improving. For example, an estimated 80 to 85 percent of all heart transplant patients will survive for at least two years. For certain VAD patients, the two-year survival rate is getting close to 70 percent, an encouraging statistic.


For advanced heart failure and transplantation:

  • 414-805-3666
Request AppointmentView Treatment Team


Heart & Vascular Center, Froedtert Hospital 9200 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53226

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