LVAD Surgery | Left Ventricular Assist Device | MedStar Health
Dr Keki Balsara holds an LVAD device.

Pioneers in developing a device to help your heart pump blood

People with end-stage heart failure may need mechanical assistance for the heart to do its job. Our expert surgeons can implant a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, that helps circulate the blood with a small pump.

Our surgeons have been implanting LVADs since 1988, and we were among the first four hospitals in the world to perform this surgery. Since then, we have pioneered the design of LVADs and novel surgical techniques for implanting them. Heart Programs around the world consult the doctors in our Advanced Heart Failure Program for assistance and advice.

We currently care for more than 100 people with LVADs, many of whom have been living with this technology for many years. Our team includes experienced LVAD coordinators, along with dedicated pharmacists, physical therapists, nutritionists and other advanced heart failure specialists.

What to expect when you receive an LVAD

You will be admitted to the hospital, and we’ll give you fluids through an IV and a sedative to help you relax. During surgery, you will breathe with a ventilator.

The LVAD procedure takes four to six hours. The surgeon will attach the LVAD to your heart’s bottom left chamber. The pump will continuously move oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle into the aorta, which delivers blood the rest of your organs.

Medical illustration showing placement of an LVAD deviceThe pump will be connected to an external controller with a wire under your skin. The controller will alert you when the batteries need to be changed or if your device requires maintenance. You can wear the controller in a pack around your waist.

After surgery, you will wake up in a cardiac intensive care unit and will be monitored for four to five days. Our nurses have special training and expertise in caring for LVAD patients. You will then be moved to a regular room, where you will continue to be monitored and receive tests for a few weeks. We will follow you closely after surgery to help you stay safe and healthy. After you return home, you will visit our office on a weekly basis. These visits will gradually become less frequent as you continue to improve.

Receiving an LVAD may make you feel more energetic because your body is receiving an adequate amount of oxygen-rich blood again. You should be able to exercise moderately, be intimate with your partner, and return to work or school. You may need to avoid submerging your LVAD in water, contact sports, and sleeping on your stomach.

Related conditions

Advanced Heart Failure

Advanced heart failure is a form of heart failure that has progressed to the most serious stage.

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC)

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a rare genetic abnormality of the heart muscle.

Peripartum Cardiomyopathy

Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a rare form of heart failure that can develop during or up to six months after pregnancy.


Angiogram (Angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels

Arterial Duplex Ultrasound for Arms and Legs

Arterial duplex ultrasound uses Doppler and traditional ultrasound to assess blood flow in the arteries of your arms and legs.

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.

Carotid Duplex Ultrasound

Carotid duplex ultrasound uses Doppler and traditional ultrasound to assess blood flow in the arteries that supply blood to your brain.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity. 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Stress Tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.

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MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

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