Heart Transplant after LVAD

The Emory Center for Heart Transplantation in Atlanta, Georgia ranks among the nation's top heart transplant hospitals. In the United States, there are about 2,500 heart transplants per year. At Emory, we perform 25-30 transplants per year. Our Atlanta heart transplant program was established in 1985.

Patients who are candidates for transplant have advanced heart failure. In the majority of patients, advanced heart failure is caused by failure of the left side of the heart. The left ventricle pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body. When not enough oxygenated blood is being pumped through the body, people experience symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue, and lack of energy.

Emory heart surgeons now offer patients the LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) as both long-terms therapy and as a bridge to transplant. This incredible device allows patients to regain health while awaiting a heart transplant and is a, potentially, life-saving option for patients who are not candidates for transplant.

An LVAD is a mechanical pump that assists the heart in circulating blood throughout the body. The device is implanted in the heart through an open procedure and it, essentially, takes over the function of the left ventricle. The LVAD pulls blood from the left ventricle and then pumps the blood into the aorta so that it can be circulated throughout the body. The LVAD is normally made of stainless steel or titanium and is powered by a small battery that is worn outside of the body.

Since being approved by the FDA in 1994, Ventricular Assist Devices have been commonly used as a “Bridge to Transplant”. While awaiting a heart transplant, a patient can become critically ill. A Ventricular Assist Device allows patients to rehabilitate and prepare for transplantation. They can go home, regain their strength, and be in good health for when their transplant becomes available.

Now, Emory doctors are offering these devices as an alternative to transplant, or destination therapy. There are far fewer donor hearts than there are patients with advanced heart failure. The ability to use LVADs as a destination therapy is a, potentially, life saving option for patients who would not be considered candidates for transplant.

Patient Advantages

  • Improved quality of life means patients can return to doing the activities they previously enjoyed such as traveling, exercising, and spending time with family.
  • Because the number of heart transplantations is limited by donor availability, using VADs as destination therapy offers hope for more patients with severe heart disease.
  • VADs offer a, potentially, life-saving option for patients with severe heart failure who are unwilling or ineligible for transplant due to personal or religious beliefs, cancer, blood clotting problems and other debilitating health conditions.
  • VADs allow patients awaiting transplantation to go home and rehabilitate so they can prepare for their heart transplant.

Why Emory?

Emory performed Georgia's first heart transplant. In addition, Emory University Hospital’s Cardiac VAD destination therapy program has earned the "Gold Seal of Approval" from The Joint Commission. The program has achieved this status because of the experience of our multidisciplinary team and our compliance with performance standards that positively impact clinical outcomes. Emory is one of only two certified programs in Georgia and is one of approximately 80 such centers in the country.

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David Vega, MD

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