Mechanical Circulatory Support and VAD

Mechanical circulatory support helps your heart function when it’s having trouble working on its own. As heart failure becomes severe, a ventricular assist device (VAD) can keep your blood circulating as it should.

The Heart & Vascular Center at MUSC Health has the most advanced heart support options available. We are the only medical center in the Lowcountry to offer the left ventricular assist device (LVAD). We are one of a few in the region to provide the right ventricular assist device (RVAD).

Whether you need lifelong support or short-term care while you wait for a heart transplant, our experts can help you stay more mobile so you can enjoy your life.

Why Choose MUSC Health for Mechanical Circulatory Support?

When you come to MUSC Health for mechanical circulatory support you benefit from:

  • Depth of experience: MUSC Health was the first in South Carolina to offer VADs for people with heart failure. Our doctors are known internationally for their expertise in heart pumps and other mechanical support. Patients have excellent quality outcomes, as measured in one-year survival after VAD surgery. Find out more about heart surgery and procedures.
  • Comprehensive treatment options: At the Heart & Vascular Center, you have access to heart failure treatment options including VADs, heart valve surgery and heart transplants. Our team offers all types of mechanical circulatory support. Learn more about our advanced heart failure program.
  • Continuum of care: If you need a VAD as a bridge to transplant, you can receive all your heart care — from heart support to transplant — in one convenient location. We are the only medical center in South Carolina performing transplants. Read more about heart transplants at MUSC Health.
  • Collaborative team: Our heart failure specialists work together to develop a treatment plan that takes into account your unique health needs. When needed, these doctors work with your heart transplant team to ensure seamless care. Meet our team.
  • Cardiac rehabilitation: We are among a select few medical centers in South Carolina with a cardiac rehabilitation program program for people with heart support devices like VADs. Our team works with other cardiac rehab specialists throughout the state so that you can receive care closer to home.
  • Trusted referral center: Doctors in the Southeast count on MUSC Health to support their patients’ heart health needs. Our team can provide lifelong care after an LVAD or transplant procedure — or transfer you back to your home cardiologist after surgery.

VADs as Bridge to Transplant or Destination Therapy

Some people use a VAD temporarily, while others rely on it for years. Mechanical circulatory support is available at MUSC Health for two forms of therapy:

  • Bridge to transplant: A VAD or other mechanical device can support a weakened heart while you wait for a heart transplant.
  • Destination therapy: A VAD can be a long-term treatment option. If a transplant isn’t an option, you may be a candidate for long-term destination therapy with a VAD. Our doctors surgically implant a VAD to help circulate blood throughout your body. When needed, our surgeons replace old devices with newer ones.

VADs and Other Mechanical Circulatory Support at MUSC Health

Surgeons place mechanical pumps and VADs to help your heart circulate blood. A VAD empowers you to go about your daily life while waiting for a heart transplant — or live without a transplant. MUSC Health offers all the available mechanical circulatory support options, including:

Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

MUSC Health is the only hospital in the Lowcountry to offer the LVAD. It sits in the left ventricle (lower heart chamber) to help your heart beat. Our doctors use both types of newer LVAD devices, HVAD and HeartMate 3TM. The team can implant the HVAD through a thoracotomy, a less-invasive surgical approach than open-heart surgery.

Percutaneous Ventricular Assist Device (pVAD)

This external, continuous flow pump provides short-term, in-hospital support for up to 14 days. It isn’t implanted in your chest but connects to your heart by tubes. You might have a pVAD before getting an implanted LVAD. MUSC Health has the ability to use a variety of different options for percutaneous assist devices.

Right Ventricular Assist Device (RVAD)

Heart failure may also affect the right ventricle, which pumps blood to your lungs. MUSC Health is one of the few medical centers in the Southeast that offers the RVAD. Most often, you’ll use this device temporarily while your heart recovers from a heart attack or surgery.

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)

ECMO is a hospital-based, potentially life-saving treatment that uses a machine to perform the role of healthy lungs and heart. It often treats people in severe heart failure or shock. Caring for people on ECMO, and helping them transition from ECMO to another therapy, requires significant expertise. Our experienced cardiac team has successfully bridged very sick people from ECMO to LVAD.

Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump (IABP)

At the hospital, a computer console regulates a balloon device that continually inflates and deflates to help your heart pump blood. It helps a weakened heart pump more blood to your body. IABP is a short-term therapy to help you recover from shock or a heart procedure.

Additional Resources

Need more information on mechanical circulatory support? Visit the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ Patient Guide to Heart, Lung and Esophageal Surgery LVAD or ECMO page.