In 1985, UPMC surgeons implanted the nation's second Jarvik Artificial Heart as a bridge-to-transplantation. In 1990, UPMC became the first medical center to discharge a patient on a ventricular assist device (VAD).
Today, we continue to pioneer the use of mechanical circulatory support devices, treating more than 1,300 people, and making our Artificial Heart program one of the most active program of its kind.
While on a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), Heather's failing heart regained strength and she was able to avoid a heart transplant.Read more about Heather's story.
From implanting the Jarvik Artificial Heart in 1985 to today's advanced circulatory support devices, the UPMC Artificial Heart Program continually sets the standard in technological innovation and clinical excellence.
Our clinicians are always working to develop new ventricular assist device (VAD) designs and improve existing designs, and we've applied this research to improving both patient survival and quality of life after implantation.
Our program has served as a national training center for medical centers implementing certain VAD programs. To date, approximately 60 centers throughout the United States have sent teams of specialists to Pittsburgh for training exercises led by Artificial Heart Program staff.
Researchers and clinicians in the Artificial Heart Program partner with the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a world-renowned organization that develops therapies to re-establish function in tissues and organs impaired by disease, trauma, or congenital abnormalities. This partnership gives our surgeons access to the latest in VAD designs.
We're also studying new short-term left and right heart support devices that can be implemented through minimally invasive approaches.
Over the years, we've developed effective ways of working with VADs and the people who need them.
We've refined our techniques and protocols to function with the utmost efficiency, and our comprehensive approach has produced an objectively impressive measure of success.
Our doctors, engineers, and researchers work with other members of the care team to:
The Artificial Heart Program at UPMC includes a multidisciplinary team of some of the best minds in the world in cardiovascular health.
From the day you first meet with us until the day you are discharged (and beyond), we will work with you and each other to arrive at the best treatment decisions.
We don't treat hearts — we treat people.
Our team of heart surgeons provides the knowledge and skill necessary for patient selection, device implantation surgery, and postoperative care.
Evaluate the patient's ability to perform the activities of daily living, such as getting dressed, preparing meals, and other tasks.
A left ventricular assist device (LVAD), also called a heart pump, is an implanted device that helps your heart pump blood to the rest of your body. These devices are commonly used for people who have a weakened heart muscle or end-stage heart failure.
LVADs serve different purposes, depending on your health and needs.
Short-term: Sometimes used during heart surgery to protect the heart or as support to strengthen the heart after damage from a heart attack or other heart event. Your doctor will remove the device before you leave the hospital.
Bridge-to-transplantation: An LVAD keeps the heart pumping blood while you wait for a heart transplant.
Destination therapy: An LVAD keeps oxygenated blood flowing through your body long term. Your doctor may recommend this option if you are not a candidate for a heart transplant.
The goal of an LVAD is to extend life and improve quality of life for people suffering from end-stage heart failure.
Experts at UPMC specialize in the use of minimally invasive techniques for the implantation of LVADs. They have found that using this approach can lead to excellent clinical outcomes, including reduced postoperative bleeding, a shorter stay in the hospital, and improvement in overall survival.
Getting an LVAD implanted requires major surgery. Your doctor will recommend several tests, such as imaging exams and blood tests, to determine if an LVAD is right for you.
Your doctor will review the risks and benefits of the procedure, as well as what device is best for you. Your care team will also tell you how to prepare, not only for surgery, but also for life with an LVAD.
Having an LVAD requires lifestyle changes. You will need to take certain precautions to care for the device and take medications, such as blood thinners. Your doctor will discuss what to expect during and after surgery before you have the procedure.
Most LVADs require open heart surgery, although minimally invasive techniques may be an option in some cases. Your doctor will talk with you about whether the procedure can be performed using minimally invasive techniques.
On the day of your surgery, you will have general anesthesia, which means you will sleep through the procedure. A ventilator will help you breathe. A heart-lung bypass machine will maintain blood flow to your body throughout the surgery.
An incision will be made in your chest to access your heart. The surgeon will implant the device and ensure it is working before closing the incision. On average, the surgery lasts about four to six hours.
After the surgery, you will spend time in the intensive care unit (ICU) and will likely need ventilator support as your body adjusts to the new device. The ventilator helps you breathe as you recover.
When ready, you'll move into a hospital room, where your care team will help you prepare to go home. The length of stay may vary for every individual patient, but you may spend two to three weeks in the hospital after surgery. During this time, you'll learn how to care for yourself and your device.
When you're able to go home, plan to have a family member or caregiver available to help you for a few weeks. It's important that you follow all instructions for maintenance, medications, exercise, and healthy eating. This will ensure you get the best results with your new device.
You will need to care for the device and lead a heart-healthy lifestyle. Your doctor may recommend cardiac rehabilitation to help you grow stronger and learn healthy habits.
With an LVAD, you will need to avoid:
Whether you require an LVAD for a short amount of time or as a more permanent solution, there are several devices available to be implanted.
For more information about heart transplants, LVADs or to make an appointment for an evaluation, visit the UPMC Heart Transplant Program website, call 412-648-6202, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Impella® is a trademark of ABIOMED, Inc.
HeartMate 3® is a trademark of Abbott.
We welcome your questions and comments and hope to help in any way that we can.
Physicians may call UPMC's 24-hour physician referral service at 1-800-544-2500 or 412-647-7000 to:
For non-urgent referrals, call 1-855-876-2484.
When referring patients to the VAD Implantation Program at UPMC, please call our 24-hour physician referral line at 1-800-544-2500 and include the information listed below.
Pertinent medical records if available, including:
For non-urgent referrals, call the UPMC Advanced Heart Failure Center at 1-855-876-2484.
UPMC Artificial Heart Program
561 Scaife Hall
200 Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15213