Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is an implanted mechanical device that circulates blood in patients with advanced congestive heart failure. As the name implies, the ventricular assist device helps the heart’s weakened ventricle (the main pumping chamber) pump oxygen-rich blood from the lungs out to the body. It does not replace the heart.


For a number of years, Gundersen has implanted VADs in emergency situations to keep people with end-stage heart failure alive while waiting for transplant. For these patients, Gundersen has collaborated with the transplant team at UW Hospital and Clinics. This collaboration continues as Gundersen expands its advanced heart failure program to include implantation of the newest generation of VADs—the portable HeartMate II. This VAD makes it possible for Gundersen to offer patients with advanced heart failure so much more

NEW! HeartMate II for destination therapy

Gundersen is now implanting the HeartMate II VAD as "destination therapy," providing long-term support and improved quality-of-life for patients with heart failure who are not eligible for a transplant.

The HeartMate II VAD is implanted in an open heart procedure. At Gundersen Health System, this procedure is performed by heart surgeons Venki Paramesh, MD, FACS and Sajjad Rizvi, MD. They work closely with cardiologist Rajah Sundaram, MD, who is board certified in Advanced Heart Failure.

The HeartMate II VAD provides long-term cardiac support for patients who have advanced heart failure. The VAD is connected to an external controller and can be powered by a portable battery. Compared to the previous generation of devices, HeartMate II VAD:

  • Has a much longer functional life
  • Operates more simply and quietly with just one moving part
  • Is smaller and easier to implant
  • Has a portable battery pack so patients can be mobile

A portable VAD as destination therapy offers effective support, maintains or improves other organ function, and allows for increased level of activity, exercise and/or cardiac rehabilitation.

Generally, destination therapy is an option for a patient with advanced heart failure who has exhausted other medical therapies. The patient should consult a cardiologist to learn if eligible for this therapy.

Life with a VAD

Eight to 12 weeks after VAD implant surgery, the patient should be able to resume most activities. Because circulation has been restored, they can expect to have more energy and fewer heart failure symptoms.

Gundersen Heart Failure Clinic

Gundersen established the Heart Failure Clinic in 1998 for the comprehensive care of patients with heart failure.  Through the clinic, Gundersen also provides long-term, comprehensive care of patients with VADs.

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Reprinted with the permission of Thoratec Corporation

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