A Left Ventricular Assist System, or LVAS, is a type of mechanical circulatory device specifically designed to improve the lives of patients waiting for donor hearts, as well as those who are ineligible for a transplant.
WHAT IS AN LVAS?
This medical device uses a mechanical pump to help the weakened heart pump blood throughout the body. It can be implanted inside the body or reside outside the body.
In a healthy heart, the left ventricle is the primary pumping chamber. The left side of the heart delivers oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. Used blood returns to the right side of the heart and is sent to the lungs to be “refueled” with oxygen.
A failing heart is too weak to pump enough blood to the body. An LVAS takes over the additional work load and helps the left ventricle pump oxygenated blood throughout the body. As a result, vital organs receive more oxygen than they did before, and heart failure patients who receive an LVAS often feel better and have more energy.
WHO NEEDS AN LVAS?
An LVAS is intended for end-stage heart failure patients (classified in NYHA class IV, or ACC/AHA stage D) who are unable to receive a heart transplant due to donor availability, eligibility or other factors. The types of patients who may benefit from LVAS treatment include:
- Patients with end-stage heart failure who are eligible for a heart transplant.
Some patients may wait a year or longer for a donor heart. During that time, their heart may become weaker, impacting their quality of life and chance of survival. An LVAS can be used to help these patients survive until a donor heart is found. This is called bridge-to-transplant therapy.
- Patients whose disease-weakened heart has the potential to recover.
An LVAS can decrease the workload of the heart, potentially allowing it to regain its strength. If this bridge-to-recovery therapy is successful, the LVAS can later be removed.
- Patients with end-stage heart failure who are not eligible to receive a donor heart because of other health issues.
In this case, if medications and other treatments are ineffective, patients may benefit from long-term LVAS support. This is called destination therapy, and the LVAS is used as a permanent implant.