Once you’ve recovered from your surgery and settled into life with your LVAD, you may want to take a vacation or visit friends and family. Traveling with an LVAD will involve some extra planning and preparation.
When scheduling a trip, discuss your plans ahead of time with your LVAD team. They‘ll help you be as independent as possible, and still stay safe and healthy. They can also provide you with the necessary travel documents, as well as helpful tips.
You should also identify the VAD centers nearest to your travel destination. Check the travel map here on MyLVAD.com to locate centers throughout the world.
Remember that shorter “trips” take planning too: Any time you leave your home—whether it’s a one-hour drive to visit friends or a ten-minute walk to get groceries—you will need to bring your backup controller and power sources with you, plus any medications you’re scheduled to take.
Depending on your VAD center’s guidelines, your local laws and your medical condition, you may be allowed to drive short distances starting six to eight weeks after your surgery. Whether you’re driving or are a passenger in a car, take care that the seatbelt doesn’t press or chafe against the driveline exit site. And, of course, always have your emergency backup equipment with you.
Some devices come with an adaptor that lets you plug your LVAD into the car’s DC power jack. It may not work with all cars, though, as DC power varies from vehicle to vehicle. Use of DC power is for convenience only and meant to be temporary. Never assume that DC power will be available. Always have fully charged backup batteries with you.
Air travel is perfectly safe for patients with LVADs—there are no issues with pressurization or altitude. Before making any travel arrangements, always consult your LVAD team.
When traveling by plane, you will need to keep all of your device equipment, including backup power and an extra controller, with you at all times. In addition to your LVAD equipment, you will need to be sure to have all necessary medications and dressing change supplies with you. Do not put any of these items in your checked luggage; always keep them with you.
Note that some flights may be too long, given the battery life of your device, and you will have to break your trip into shorter legs. There are also some destinations that aren’t safe or recommended for patients with LVADs.
Your LVAD team will provide a medical necessity letter for security checkpoints to allow you keep all LVAD-related equipment with you on the plane. Or, you can give the letter template below to your doctor or other member of your LVAD team to customize and sign for you. Be sure to leave extra time for security, in case there are any issues or problems.
To avoid interference with your LVAD, you will not be able to go through the security scanners, but will probably require a manual pat-down check. Inform the security agent of the location of your driveline to avoid accidental pulling at the exit site.