Ventricular Assist Device Program

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical pump that supports heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts. The device takes blood from a lower chamber of the heart and helps pump it to the body and vital organs, just as a healthy heart would.

Our highly specialized Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) team helps choose the VAD that is the best treatment option for your child—whether the goal is full recovery or long-term care. At Children’s, we have performed 15 VADs since the program’s inception in 2012 and more than 90 percent of our VAD patients have successfully received heart transplants.

Types of VADs

Short-term support devices

  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) uses heart and lung bypass machines to assume a patient’s heart and lung functions, allowing the organs to heal.
  • Impellas (catheter-based heart pumps) are inserted in our lab and support the heart function until recovery or more long-term treatments can be planned.
  • Aortic balloon pumps are placed in the main artery of the heart. As the balloon inflates, it moves blood into the coronary arteries. When it deflates, the pump helps blood move out into the other organs of the body.

Long-term support devices

  • Berlin Heart EXCOR is a small pump that helps critically ill children waiting for a transplant. One or two Berlin Heart pumps can be used to efficiently support one or two pumping chambers of the heart. This allows the child to come off the ventilator, eat by themselves, walk around and undergo physical therapies. This way, patients become better candidates for a transplant when a donor heart arrives.
  • Heartmate II is a pump that can support an older child or adult until they receive a transplant. It can also be used for lifelong support. The goal of this device is to support the child’s circulation so he can go home.
  • HeartWare is a pump that can support heart function until a heart transplant. The goal is to stabilize children in severe heart failure so they can go home while waiting for a heart transplant.