Patients and caregivers have many questions about LVAD therapy for Bridge-to-Transplant and Destination Therapy use. Following is a list of questions that are frequently asked. Please feel free to contact us if you have additional questions or would like more information about these life-saving therapies.
Many patients can be supported for several years by an LVAD. Patients waiting for a heart transplant will only have the device until a donor heart becomes available. Patients who are not eligible for a heart transplant will have the LVAD for the remainder of their lives.
Will I be able to take a bath or a shower while implanted with the pump?
Being submerged in water is NOT an option. Showering may be allowed with the proper protective equipment. Your nurse coordinator will educate you and your caregiver if showering is appropriate and teach you about proper showering technique.
Will I have pain after surgery?
Pain can be expected after any major surgery and is an important part of your management in the ICU. Pain medications will be managed by the critical care physician and your nurse in order to achieve a level of pain that is comfortable for you.
How long will I be in the hospital?
A typical length of stay after LVAD implantation is about three weeks, with approximately two weeks being spent in the Thoracic ICU and one week being spent on the Cardiovascular or "Step Down" Unit. (Please refer to the Patient Experience section).
How will my family and I learn how to live life with the LVAD?
Education starts the day you are admitted to the hospital and continues throughout hospitalization. Our team of LVAD nurse coordinators will work through several educational modules and test your knowledge as they go. Information is provided in written, verbal, and visual formats for your learning needs.
Does the LVAD make noise?
The HeartMate II and HeartWare pumps do not make any noise. The pump's controller does have loud alarms and alerts with specific purposes.
How long do the batteries last?
Patients are given several pairs of LVAD batteries. Depending on the device, a pair of batteries will last from 8 to 12 hours. You will be educated on how long your batteries should last and about carrying spares.
Will I need to take medications?
The medications you take will depend upon pre-existing medical conditions. You may be on many of the same medications that you were taking before LVAD implantation. LVAD management requires some form of anticoagulation (blood thinner). Your doctor may prescribe new medications, which will be explained to you at that time.
Do I need to follow a special diet?
Most LVAD patients need to follow a low sodium diet.
Will I be able to have sex?
You should be able to resume normal sexual activity with your doctor's permission. Your LVAD nurse coordinator can help you learn about modifications to protect the driveline during sexual activity. For women of childbearing age, becoming pregnant is prohibited while on LVAD support, due to potential complications.
Can I travel?
Travel is encouraged after you and your caregiver have become competent in caring for your device. Your LVAD coordinator can help you make necessary preparations for long distance or extended travel.
Are there any activity restrictions?
There are certain activities that are prohibited for LVAD patients.
- Contact sports or any activity with the risk of personal injury
- Water sports or submerging in water in any way
- Skiing/ Snowboarding/ Rollerblading/ Skateboarding
- Dusting computer or television screens
- Sleeping with electric blanketsor heating pads
Will I be able to return to work?
Many patients return to work after they are recovered from LVAD surgery. There may be some limitations, depending on the type of work you do. Discuss with your doctor when to return to work.
Will I be able to drive?
Your physician will determine if you are eligible to drive. Patients must not have had any of the following symptoms for a period of at least six weeks after LVAD surgery: dizziness, confusion, fainting, significant decreases in blood pressure, or arrhythmias. A patient who experiences these symptoms is unsafe to drive and be without a 24 hour-per-day trained companion.
How often will I return to the cinic after surgery?
After discharge, patients will return to the Heart Failure Clinic at Intermountain Medical Center for regular follow-up appointments. These will occur two to three times a week initially, and over time will decrease to once a week, every two weeks, and every three months.