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Heart Failure Health Center

LVADs for End-Stage Heart Failure: An Alternative to Transplants

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LVADs: Risks and Warnings continued...

To get an LVAD, a person would also have to meet some eligibility requirements. The good news is that some older people who might not qualify for a transplant might be able to get an LVAD instead. The bad news is that others who are too sick for a transplant might also be too sick for an LVAD.

Being a good candidate for an LVAD also depends on your current treatment approach.

"Before people are eligible to get an LVAD, it is imperative that they are already getting the best possible treatment," Yancy tells WebMD. They need to be taking their medication as prescribed, getting regular checkups with doctors, and following any lifestyle advice -- like sticking to a low-sodium diet. People who aren't doing these things -- or who have other issues, like heavy alcohol use -- might not qualify for an LVAD.

If you're wondering if an LVAD might help you, talk to your doctor. See if any local medical centers are qualified to implant LVADs. And in the meantime, make sure to follow your doctor's heart failure treatment plan closely.

The Future of LVADs for End-Stage Heart Failure

Yancy says that the number of people who get LVADs is likely to increase dramatically in the next few years. They might also be used in people with earlier stages of disease, when they could have an even bigger benefit.

There's some evidence that LVADs could do more than support a weakened heart -- they might be able to help heal it. Some European studies suggest that an LVAD could be implanted temporarily to assist the heart and allow it to recover. Afterward, the device could theoretically be removed.

LVADs also have the potential to work alongside possible future treatments for heart failure, Yancy says. For instance, researchers are working on stem cells and growth hormones that could help regenerate a damaged heart. Theoretically, LVADs could be implanted temporarily to help support the heart while those treatments take effect.

While these future technologies are being developed, LVADs are making a big difference in the lives of thousands of people with heart failure right now.

"What people with heart failure need to know today is that LVADs can help them feel better and live longer than previously possible," says Yancy. "These devices were only available to a few before. But now, more and more people are benefiting from them."

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Reviewed on March 11, 2010

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