CPMC: Pioneers of the HeartMate Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)
For many patients with severe heart disease, heart transplantation is not always an option and donor hearts continue to be scarce. Today mechanical circulatory assist devices are expanding the treatment options for patients with end-stage heart disease. Clinical research studies have shown that these devices can improve the quality and length of life for many patients.
Luckily, California Pacific Medical Center has a long history of VAD use and research. In 1984, we were the first hospital in San Francisco and on the West Coast to successfully use a VAD for a patient waiting for a heart transplant and have implanted over 200 VADs since then.
Additionally, CPMC was the only medical facility in the San Francisco Bay Area which participated in an FDA-approved trial of the newest, leading-edge VAD, the Thoratec® HeartMate® II Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). Having been working with and implanting these VADS longer than any other San Francisco Bay Area hospital, means we are the most experienced.
Use this page to learn about Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs) and Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADs), as well as the Thoratec® HeartMate® II Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). Patients come to CPMC not just from San Francisco but from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and California to explore their heart disease treatment options.
- Is HeartMate II an artificial heart?
- How active can patients be with the HeartMate II?
- What Is Heart Failure?
Is HeartMate II an artificial heart?
HeartMate II is not an artificial heart, nor is it a heart replacement. The patient’s native heart is not removed. HeartMate II attaches to the heart and is designed to assist – or take over - the pumping function of the patient’s left ventricle - the main pumping chamber of the heart.
Thoratec Corporation’s HeartMate® II Left Ventricular Assist System (LVAS) is designed to supplement the pumping function of the heart. The device is placed just below the diaphragm in the abdomen. It is attached to the left ventricle, and the aorta, the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to the entire body. An external, wearable system that includes a small controller and two batteries is attached by an external driveline. The wearable system is either worn under or on top of clothing. The device is conveniently small, about the size of a “D” cell battery, and therefore, it is suitable for a wider range of patients. This quiet, lightweight device, weighing only 12 ounces, is designed to meet the needs of patients requiring long-term cardiac support. Similar to other ventricular assist devices on the market, the HeartMate II takes over the function of the damaged heart and is designed to restore blood flow throughout the body, enabling the patient to breathe more easily and feel less fatigued. The patient’s organs will receive more blood than they did before receiving the LVAD, and this will likely improve their organ function. After receiving an LVAD, patients generally feel more energetic and are able to resume normal activities that they were unable to do prior to receiving the device.
Back to top
How active can patients be with the HeartMate II?
Because patients are in a severe stage of heart failure before receiving the device, they are very debilitated and typically very limited in terms of activity level. After receiving HeartMate II, the majority of patients can return to their favorite daily activities, with the primary limitation being water immersion. Many patients are able to return to work and resume hobbies that they haven’t been able to do for years.
HeartMate II may be used to support patients and improve their quality of life while they wait for a donor heart to become available. This is known as “Bridge-to-Transplantation.” It may also be used as a permanent option for patients who are not eligible for heart transplantation, due to age or other medical conditions. Usage of the device in this manner is known as “Destination Therapy.” In either situation, without the option of an LVAD, studies report advanced heart failure patients have poor prospects for survival and significantly limited lifestyles.
Other studies have shown that patients treated with an LVAD can live longer and enjoy a much-improved quality of life compared with those being treated with drug therapy alone. There are approximately 50,000 – 100,000 advanced heart failure patients who could benefit from an LVAD in the U.S. - with long-lasting affect: the Pivotal Clinical Trial on HeartMate II started seven years ago and there are patients who have been supported for that entire period of time. In all, more than 10,000 HeartMate II VAds have been implanted.
Back to top
What Is Heart Failure?
Heart failure is a widespread, chronic condition that develops when the heart muscle weakens and is unable to pump a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. Heart failure worsens over time and is typically caused by persistent high blood pressure, heart attack, valve disease and other forms of heart disease or birth defects. Left untreated, the lack of adequate blood flow causes the organs to progressively fail, resulting in numerous medical complications that deteriorate a person’s quality of life and often leads to death.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Heart Failure Society of American (HFSA), more than five million Americans are living with heart failure, and 670,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. In the United States, the number of deaths from this condition has more than doubled since 1979, averaging 250,000 annually.
Though transplants offer hope for approximately 2,000 advanced heart failure patients each year in the U.S., over 250,000 patients have no viable treatment option and are considered at high risk for repeated hospitalizations, poor quality of life and even death.
Back to top
Identifying the Best Treatment Options and Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) / Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) Specialist for You
Our commitment at CPMC is to help each patient identify the best doctor for their diagnosis and course of treatment. To find the best specialist for Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) / Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) , we want to empower our patients to participate in their health care journey. This means encouraging a frank discussion with the doctor about Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) / Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), to identify all appropriate treatment options as well as to discuss symptoms, issues, outcomes, etc., when relevant for Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) / Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). The first step of your journey is research - using online tools such as CPMC's to investigate and understand Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) / Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). The second step is to schedule an initial consultation with a physician or specialist. In some cases, you'll need to go through your primary care physician if you do not have a referral. If you already have a referral,you can schedule an appointment directly with the Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) / Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) specialist. The third step is for the specialist in Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) / Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) to meet with you and review your history. As part of the diagnosis, you may need testing, so the doctor (surgeon or specialist) can discuss your treatment options and the both of you can determine your best course of action. We have patients at CPMC coming from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, Northern California, and many from throughout the United States with respect to Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) / Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). Whether you are from San Francisco, Marin, the San Francisco Bay Area generally or any other location, our physicians will provide the hands-on care you deserve.
Back to top
California Pacific's Heart and Vascular Center
California Pacific's Heart and Vascular Center is supported by one of the best heart hospital/center networks in the USA, offering quality, comprehensive patient-centered cardiovascular care by a team of top heart surgeons and physicians with leading-edge technology. Serving the entire San Francisco Bay Area, including San Francisco and Marin County, as well as the entire Northern California region, our team has many of the best cardiovascular surgeons and physicians in California and the United States.
Back to top
Read a patient's success story