Ventricular Assist Devices
For appointments call 314.454.KIDS (5437) or 800.678.KIDS (5437).
What is a ventricular assist device?
A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical pump that's used to support heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts.
The device takes blood from a lower chamber of the heart and helps pump it to the body and vital organs, just as a healthy heart would.
Your child or infant may benefit from a VAD if one or both of the child’s ventricles don't work well because of heart disease. Ventricles are the lower chambers of the heart.
When is a VAD needed?
A ventricular assist device can help support your child’s heart:
- During or after surgery, until your child’s heart recovers.
- While your child is waiting for a heart transplant.
- As a long-term solution in lieu of a heart transplant.
Some VADs feature a pump and power source located outside of the body. Other models are implantable, and recent advances have resulted in smaller, more reliable devices. This now makes treatment with VADs an option for more children with heart failure.
Who has experience with this emerging technology?
Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) support is a rapidly emerging field in pediatric cardiology. The St. Louis Children's and Washington University Heart Center introduced its VAD program 15 years ago and maintains the largest pediatric heart team in the region.
Since then, the scope of the life-saving devices surgically implanted and managed has grown. It includes the Thoratec, CentraMag, Heartmate II, HeartWare, Biomedicus, Abiomed, Berlin Heart, Syncardiac Total Artificial Heart and Impella devices.
What are some recent advances?
- St. Louis Children’s Hospital was chosen as one of 12 pediatric heart transplant centers in the United States to participate in a Berlin Heart FDA study that eventually led to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the device as a treatment option in 2011. Until seven years ago, no ventricular assist device was available for the patient population currently served by the Berlin. Since then dozens of Berlin Heart devices have been implanted in children at the St. Louis Children's Hospital Heart Center.
- In 2013 the Heart Center will take part in a National Institutes of Health trial to test new miniaturized devices. The “PumpKIN trial” (Pumps for Kids, Infants and Neonates), will investigate very small rotary pumps implanted to provide extended circulatory support for newborns, older infants and children weighing less than 55 pounds.
- Washington University physicians are national leaders in pediatric cardiac research and have published more than 300 peer-reviewed articles. This reflects an ongoing commitment to pursue and further develop therapies for children and families debilitated by heart failure.