UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Critical Care

Title: Ventricular Assist Devices

Keywords: VAD, ventricular assist device, hear failure, shock, hemodynamics (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/28/2012 by Haney Mallemat, MD
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Ventricular assist devices (VAD) pump blood from the left, right or both ventricles for patients in severe ventricular failure.

VADs may be placed temporarily (as a bridge to transplant) or permanently in patients who are not transplant candidates (also known as Destination Therapy)

Certain types of VADs continuously pump blood in a non-pulsatile fashion. In these cases, a patient may be perfusing normally without a palpable pulse.

Familiarity with potential VAD complications is important as a patient with a VAD may be presenting to an ED near you. Complications include:

  • Bleeding complications from anticoagulation; all VADs require some form of anticoagulation
  • Infection; a portion of the VAD exits externally and this site can be a portal of entry for skin flora
  • Embolic phenomenon from clots generated within the VAD
  • Infection of the VAD itself, called VAD-itis; this can also lead to sepsis


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