Heart Transplant

Bridging to Transplant

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a surgically implanted device that helps the heart pump blood to the body. VADs are for patients who have reached end stage heart failure. VADs have traditionally been used as a bridge-to-transplant, allowing patients to live long enough to receive a heart transplant. Members of Stanford's cardiothoracic surgery team have been performing VAD surgeries for more than 35 years. Stanford researchers developed the first left ventricular assist device (LVAD), the Novocor, leading to the first successful bridge-to-transplant implant in 1984.

For patients who cannot receive a heart transplant, VAD therapy can also provide long-term treatment for heart failure. This is known as destination therapy. Stanford Hospital offers both bridge-to-transplant and destination VAD therapy. In fact, Stanford is one of only two destination therapy VAD programs in the Bay Area and one of only seven in California.

LVAD Therapy

The most common type of VAD has a tube that pulls blood from the left ventricle into a pump. The pump then sends blood into the aorta (the large blood vessel leaving the left ventricle). This helps the weakened ventricle. The pump is placed in the upper part of the abdomen, while another tube attached to the pump is brought out of the abdominal wall to the outside of the body and attached to the pump's battery and control system. LVADs are now portable and can be used for many years. Patients with LVADs can be discharged from the hospital, return to their normal activities and enjoy a good quality of life while waiting for a donor heart to become available. Destination therapy patients, who are not transplant candidates, can also enjoy this same quality of life for years after implantation.

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