Living With VAD/Artificial Heart

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A ventricular assist device (VAD) or artificial heart can greatly improve quality of life, but they also bring some unique challenges. We prepare you, your family and caregivers, and your community to live with a mechanical circulatory support device.

We view every patient as a member of our own family. We're sensitive to the complexities of life - family, financial, social - and we pay as much attention to the personal aspect of care as to the technical side.

Preparing to Receive a VAD or Artificial Heart

Your physicians will help you and your family prepare for the ventricular assist device (VAD) or artificial heart procedure.

Our active patient peer mentoring network connects new patients with current patients who have lived through the experience. Ask your provider to connect you to an existing patient.

What to Expect After the VAD or Artificial Heart Procedure

After VAD implantation, most patients spend up to one month in the hospital. During this time, the VAD coordinator and nursing team educate patients on how to manage the day-to-day aspects of living with the device, including:

  • Dressing changes
  • Battery changes
  • Understanding battery life

Before the procedure and after discharge, we require patients to live near UCLA for three months to quickly receive any preparation, follow-up care and monitoring that's needed. Learn more lodging and nearby services, including the UCLA Tiverton House.

Our care incorporates plans for your return home. For example:

  • If your home has stairs, we work that design into your rehabilitation process to help you with safe access.
  • After implantation surgery, our teams visit your community to educate first responders on how to care for a patient with a VAD (the three closest ERs, local fire station and first responders at 911).
  • We check your home to ensure it's safe and has backup power resources.

Our VAD coordination team is on-call any time to answer questions.

Post-VAD Care From UCLA or Your Local Physician

When you are discharged, our commitment doesn't end, it just changes.

For the first several months after discharge, we'll provide regular care in our clinic:

  • These visits are highly coordinated.
  • You may see specialists, including the cardiomyopathy team, nurse practitioner, physicians, VAD coordinator and others.
  • We work to arrange all consultations during the same visit, so you receive care as efficiently as possible.

Many patients continue to receive care from their UCLA physicians after they receive a VAD.

But if you live farther from Los Angeles, you and your UCLA physicians may wish to continue post-VAD care from your local referring physician. If this is the case, we'll help train the physician's staff.

Patient Education Materials for Patients With a VAD

Information on specific types of ventricular assist devices (VADs) and artificial hearts that we use is available on the ventricular assist devices and artificial heart pages.

We also offer a detailed, downloadable patient education brochure (PDF) that provides more information, including:

  1. Introduction
  2. How the heart works
  3. Heart disease and VADs
  4. Alternative treatments
  5. Implantation procedure
  6. After surgery
  7. Risks and complications
  8. Anticoagulation
  9. Discharge from the hospital
  10. Living with a VAD
  11. Summary