Ventricular assist device: Approach to Care

The Ventricular Assist Device Program at UF Health brings together an expert team of cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons and program coordinators dedicated to helping advanced heart failure patients.

Our evaluation process

Our goal is to provide our patients with a comfortable, convenient, patient-focused evaluation process.

The following steps are taken to determine whether or not a patient is a candidate for a VAD:

  • Meeting with a social worker and a psychologist to discuss any social and psychological issues related to VAD implantation.
  • Complete medical and social evaluation. The evaluation usually takes 2 to 3 days and includes several tests such as right and/ or left heart catheterization, echocardiogram (ECHO), pulmonary function test (PFT), cardiopulmonary stress test, chest X-ray, ultrasound of the abdomen, chest CAT scan (CT), and several blood tests.
  • The final decision is made by the Cardiology Medical Review Board, which includes cardiologists, surgeons, nurse practitioners, VAD coordinators, a social worker, psychologist, and financial representative, who all are involved during the evaluation process.

Surgery

After the decision to proceed with VAD placement has been made, a date for the surgery is selected. Prior to the implantation of the device, a cardiologist, cardiac surgeon, and a VAD coordinator will discuss all of the details of the surgical procedure and post-surgical period to answer any questions. They will also provide education about the specific type of VAD that will be implanted. In addition, the patient will be given a patient booklet to guide them through the entire process, from surgery to recovery to life beyond.

Recover

As soon as the patients start to recover from surgery, physical therapy will be initiated. This usually happens while in the CICU and continues until discharge. Once discharged, the patient is expected to continue physical therapy or some form of exercise routinely

It usually takes up to two weeks to be discharged from the hospital. Before this happens, the patient and patient’s caregiver will be educated by our VAD coordinators on how to handle the VAD and will have an opportunity to ask questions to assure a full understanding of how the device works and how to take care of it.

Living with a VAD

Having a VAD should not be stressful, but it will require a few lifestyle adjustments. A VAD coordinator will go over all of the lifestyle changes associated to living with a VAD.

Some of the changes include but are not limited to:

  • NO swimming or tub baths.
  • No MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging).
  • No pulling on the driveline, it could damage it.
  • Do not disconnect from the power source. The VAD will stop!
  • Do not handle heavy electrical equipment.

We’re always here for you

Our patients are always in close contact with a VAD coordinator via phone. The VAD coordinator will call regularly with blood work results or when changes in medications are needed. Patients are welcome to contact a VAD coordinator if and when there are questions, concerns or issues.

Our team’s goal is to provide our patients with support before, during and after the VAD implantation.