Ventricular assist device (VAD)

When your heart cannot pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs, a ventricular assist device (VAD) can help. At Spectrum Health, you’ll find a highly trained team of specialists, advanced technology, and holistic support that helps people with heart failure live longer and with a better quality of life.

What is a VAD?

A VAD helps your heart pump blood. It has four parts:

  • Pump that’s placed in the pericardial space (sac around your heart) and connected to your heart and aorta (main blood vessel)
  • Controller that remains outside your body and allows you and your care team to regulate the pump
  • Power source, such as a battery, that remains outside your body
  • Driveline, or cable, that connects the pump to the controller and power source

Reasons for a VAD

Your doctor may recommend a VAD if you have advanced, or end-stage, heart failure and are:

Nationally accredited in VAD

Spectrum Health holds advanced certification in VAD from the Joint Commission, the national quality organization that accredits hospitals in the United States. So, you can feel confident that we’re committed to providing high-quality care that supports better outcomes for you. 

Our patient survival rates after VAD surgery exceed national benchmarks.

quality data

Data includes all patients implanted with continuous-flow left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) between June 23, 2006, and March 31, 2019.

Receiving a VAD

Am I a candidate?
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You may be a candidate for a VAD evaluation if you:

  • Have heart failure symptoms despite treatment
  • Have a left ventricular ejection fraction, or LVEF, of 25% or less (LVEF is the measurement of how much blood your heart pumps out of the left lower chamber, or ventricle, during each contraction)
  • Need intravenous (IV) medicines, like milrinone, to control heart failure symptoms
Get a second opinion

We welcome requests for second opinions. Each VAD program has its own criteria. That means you may be a candidate for a VAD at Spectrum Health even if you weren’t a candidate for a VAD at another hospital.

Contact us to ensure you're getting the best care.

VAD evaluation
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You’ll start with a series of tests to determine whether a VAD is an option for you. Rely on your VAD coordinator to guide you and your loved ones through the process, which includes:

  • Blood tests
  • Cardiovascular imaging tests
  • Meeting with members of your VAD team

Count on us for timely evaluation and decision-making.

Minimally invasive VAD surgery
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Whenever possible, your surgical team uses minimally invasive techniques to place your VAD. When your surgeons use smaller incisions and specialized tools to perform your procedure, you may benefit from:

  • Less pain and blood loss
  • Lower risk of complications
  • Shorter hospital stay

All VAD surgeries take place at Spectrum Health Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center in Grand Rapids.

Hospital stay
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You’ll probably stay in the hospital for three to four weeks after your procedure. For the first few days after your surgery, you’ll stay in the cardiothoracic critical care unit—a specialized area of the hospital dedicated to patients with serious heart issues.

Rely on your nurses, rehabilitation therapists and dietitians to help you begin your recovery and build strength for your return home.

Recovery and follow-up care
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Arrange for a friend, family member or other caregiver to drive you home from the hospital and stay with you for two to three weeks.

We’ll ask you and your caregiver to remain within a two-hour drive of Grand Rapids for at least three months after your surgery. Our VAD coordinator can help you find affordable local accommodations if needed.

Before you leave the hospital, your Spectrum Health team will make sure you and your caregiver know how to care for you and your VAD at home.

Living with a VAD
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A VAD can help you live longer and improve your quality of life. We’ll be a life-long partner as you recover, return to regular activities and maintain your VAD. Look to us for: 

  • Education and support for lifestyle changes to keep yourself as healthy as possible 
  • Medication management 
  • Regular tests, such as blood draws and blood pressure measurements, to monitor your health 
  • Help to maintain your VAD, including replacing batteries 
  • Cardiac rehabilitation to help you build strength and prevent unplanned hospitalizations
VAD care close to home
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We keep care local to you whenever possible. 

You may be able to receive some of your long-term follow-up care at a doctor’s office in your West Michigan community or through virtual care. Talk to your cardiologist about the best options for you and your family. 

VAD referrals


Contact our care navigator or make an appointment to discuss your health needs. 

Physician referral

Submit patient referral information through EpicCare Link, by calling our clinic directly, or through form submission. 

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