Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) |Heart Failure | MedStar Health
Dr Keki Balsara holds an LVAD device.

Leaders in improving quality of life by helping hearts pump more effectively

Medical illustration showing placement of an LVAD deviceIf you have end-stage heart failure, your heart may need help pumping blood from the ventricles (the main pumping chambers of your heart) to the rest of your body.

We are an international leader in developing and perfecting ventricular assist devices (VAD), also known as mechanical circulatory support devices. Heart programs around the world consult the doctors in our Advanced Heart Failure Program for assistance and advice. We have been involved in virtually every important new VAD development since its inception.

VADs can be implanted in the left, right or both ventricles. The most common type is the left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

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. These devices can be used until your heart becomes strong enough to pump on its own, while waiting for a heart transplant.

What to expect when you receive a VAD?

Medical illustration showing placement of an LVAD deviceYou’ll be given general anesthesia so you’ll sleep during the procedure. A machine called a ventilator will help you breathe. You’ll also be connected to a heart-lung machine, which will circulate oxygenated blood through your body during surgery.

The surgeon will make an incision in your chest, separate your chest bone and open your rib cage. They will attach the VAD to the affected ventricle. A tube carries blood from the heart to a pump, which circulates the blood through the body. A cable connects the pump to a battery pack that you’ll wear outside the body.

Once the VAD is working properly, we’ll take you off the heart-lung machine and the VAD will take over pumping blood. The procedure takes four to six hours and you may need to stay on the ventilator for a few days until you can breathe on your own. Your care team will explain how to live with and care for your particular device after you go home.



Pericarditis occurs when the tissue surrounding your heart becomes swollen or inflamed.

Pericardial effusion

Pericardial effusion occurs when this tissue is damaged, causing a buildup of extra fluid that puts pressure on the heart.

Pericardial tamponade

The pericardium is a thin membrane that surrounds your heart. Pericardial tamponade is a condition when blood or fluid builds up in this membrane, putting pressure on your heart and prevent it from expanding fully.

Constrictive pericarditis

A condition where the fluid in the pericardial becomes thick or stiff and interferes with the normal diastolic filling of the heart which can lead to severe complications.


Myopericarditis is a condition where both the pericardium and the heart muscle becomes enflamed.


A type of pericarditis with evidence of regional wall motion abnormalities with reduced ventricular function.


Myocarditis causes inflammation of the heart muscle and can damage the heart’s electrical system.


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.

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.

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.

Computed 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.

Our locations

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MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

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