Mechanical circulatory support devices: Customized treatment for your heart

When your heart can't pump your blood well, you may need a mechanical assist device. UW Health is nationally known for surgical implantation of ventricular assist devices (VAD) and total artificial heart (TAH). Our experts will design your customized treatment plan.


Keeping your heart pumping

If you are diagnosed with end-stage heart failure, you may need a device to help your heart pump.

UW Health is a national leader in using mechanical circulatory support devices (MCSD) for patients with end-stage heart failure. We implant a number of models of left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) and also offer the total artificial heart (TAH). The type of device used is based on each patient's individual needs.

Our MCSD program is certified by both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).


What are mechanical circulatory support devices (MCSD)?

Mechanical circulatory support devices help your heart pump blood. They are mechanical pumps that move blood out of your heart and into your blood vessels. These pumps are either implanted in the chest or connected to your heart via tubes.

Left ventricular assist device (LVAD)

The most common type of VAD is a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). This device supports your heart’s left ventricle. The left ventricle pumps blood to your aorta. 

LVADs keep your heart working while you wait for a heart transplant. LVADs may also be used as a permanent treatment for people who don’t qualify for a heart transplant. We also implant the Syncardia Total Artificial Heart for those patients who have biventricular failure and are awaiting transplant.

Right ventricular assist device (RVAD)

Right ventricular assist devices (RVADs) support your right ventricle. Your right ventricle pumps blood to your pulmonary artery.

Though less common than LVADs, RVADs are often used temporarily to help your heart recover following surgery.

Treatment process

What to know if you need an assist device

The majority of devices we implant are VADs, which can be implanted with minimally invasive surgery or traditional open-heart surgery.

You may need to spend several days in the hospital preparing for your procedure. While you’re in the hospital, doctors will evaluate the health of your heart.      

You will be asleep when your VAD is implanted. Your care team will connect you to a ventilator to help you breathe. You may also be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine. This machine continues to move blood through your body during surgery.  

The surgery to implant a VAD takes four to six hours.

After your procedure

Following your procedure, you will be monitored in the hospital’s intensive care unit. You may need to remain in the hospital for up to two weeks following your device implantation.

During your hospital stay, your care team will teach you how the VAD or TAH works and how to care for your assist device. Your doctor will advise you about when to return to work and other activities. Many device recipients can resume hobbies, work and daily activities.

Caring for your VAD/MCD

Watch videos explaining how to care for your devices at home.

Caring for your VAD/MCD

Dorothy Perpich standing at a scenic overlook with mountains in the background

I just can’t say enough about the UW Health team.

Dorothy Perpich
UW Health heart care patient, who received an LVAD in 2015

Meet our team

A team of experts for you

The Heart Failure Management Program at UW Health offers a range of options for people with heart failure.

Our providers

Treatment locations

Surgery and care locations

UW Health’s cardiac surgery team offers MCSD and Total Artificial Heart implantation at University Hospital in Madison. Our surgeons and heart failure experts offer consultations and follow-up appointments at outreach clinics across Wisconsin.