A weak heart that is not functioning properly can cause discomfort, pressure, fatigue, and other symptoms that can bring the simplest daily routines to a halt. Called heart failure, this is a serious condition. But there are solutions, and doctors are getting better at using them to prolong life and even provide better quality of life. In the most serious cases, a doctor may recommend a ventricular assist device (VAD), a small mechanical pump that is surgically implanted inside the chest to help the heart pump blood to the body.
VADs are sometimes called “bridge to transplant” devices, because they can stabilize a person’s heart and allow their bodies to grow stronger while they are waiting for a heart transplant—a process that can take months or longer. Sometimes VADs are permanent solutions for patients who have severe heart failure, but who have other conditions or problems that make them ineligible for heart transplants.
“These devices save countless lives,” says Yale Medicine cardiac surgeon Pramod Bonde, MD, who has helped many patients with his innovative use of the devices. “A few years ago, more people were dying while waiting for a heart. Now, thanks to VADs, they have an option that will help them survive.”