When the heart is unable to pump blood, a patient may benefit from a surgically implanted pump placed in the chest known as a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). This device can be used as a substitute to help the heart work more efficiently, supplementing the heart's pumping ability to improve blood flow. An LVAD supports a weakened or diseased left ventricle, the heart's most muscular chamber that pumps oxygen-rich blood out of the heart and throughout the entire body. A left ventricular assist device may be necessary if heart failure progresses to the point where medicines and other treatments no longer help. The LVAD consists of a tube connected to the left ventricle, a pump and another tube connected to the aorta. As the left ventricle fills with blood, it flows through the tube and into the internal pump, which pushes it forcefully out into the aorta.
A battery-powered mechanical device, the LVAD is connected to a computer controller and power supply outside of the body; a belt or harness holding these external items may be given to the patient to wear. The most commonly used LVADs are the size of a compact disc (CD), although newer versions may be much smaller. LVADs are often used for heart failure or during the period prior to heart transplant.