LVAD implantation is an open-heart surgery that takes from 4 to 6 hours to perform. It is performed through an incision made over your breastbone (sternal incision) or can be done using two smaller incisions on either side of your chest between the ribs. The recovery process following surgery varies from patient to patient. The hospital length of stay can range anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks but may change based on your specific needs. Each hospital follows slightly different procedures, but the information below will give you a general sense of what to expect.
Each hospital has their own process for evaluating a person for LVAD implant. We have tried to put together some general information to help you through this process.
Most LVAD candidates are admitted to the hospital several days before their surgery. In many cases, patients are already in the hospital for heart-failure-related complications when the decision is made to implant an LVAD.
Before the surgery is performed, your doctor will conduct an extensive medical evaluation and talk you through the details of your operation. An LVAD coordinator or other members of the LVAD team will also provide details about your LVAD, including information about living with an LVAD and about your post-operative care and recovery plan. It may also be possible for you to meet another patient who is currently or was previously on an LVAD.
Depending on your health status and the timing of your surgery, your doctor may admit you to a specialized hospital unit where you can be monitored more closely and receive stronger medications to help your heart before your surgery. The purpose of this extra care is to improve your clinical condition so that you're as healthy as possible before surgery. It's sometimes called "preoperative tune-up."
Before your surgery you may meet:
- An LVAD Coordinator, who will introduce you to your LVAD pump and its external components. In most institutions, the LVAD Coordinators are responsible for training you to manage and care for the pump and the driveline that exits your body.
- A hospital social worker, who will help identify the support systems and resources available to you at home, for any outstanding needs. The social worker will also discuss the details of post-operative home life, as well as the network of social and psychological services available to you once you leave the hospital.
- A hospital financial representative, who will work with you and your insurance company to discuss your medical coverage and all the financial details of your surgery, including your post-operative care and other costs related to the ongoing maintenance of your LVAD.