How you prepare

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Before your VAD is implanted, it's likely you'll stay in the hospital for some time preparing for surgery. While you're in the hospital, you may have other treatments for your weakened heart or heart failure. Your doctors will make sure you're healthy enough to have surgery to implant a VAD. You may need many tests or other procedures before the surgery, including:

  • Echocardiogram. An echocardiogram, which is an imaging test, helps your doctor determine the pumping function of your heart, check your heart valves and help determine the cause of your heart failure. This can help your doctor decide if you're a candidate for a VAD and if there are any other treatment options available.
  • Chest X-ray. Your doctor uses a chest X-ray to see the size and shape of your heart and lungs.
  • Blood tests. Your doctor will order blood tests to see if your liver and kidneys are working properly before the surgery to implant your VAD. Your doctor might also check for other chemicals in your blood that show how well your heart is working. Blood tests are commonly used to check for diabetes, thyroid problems or symptoms of infection, which will need to be treated before you can have surgery.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG). An electrocardiogram can help your doctor check your heart rhythm before surgery.
  • Cardiac catheterization. In this test, a short tube (sheath) is inserted into a vein or artery in your upper leg (groin) or arm. A hollow, flexible and longer tube (guide catheter) is then inserted into the sheath. Aided by X-ray images on a monitor, your doctor threads the guide catheter through that artery until it reaches your heart. This test checks the pressures in your heart and may be used to determine if you are a candidate for a VAD and if you may need additional devices.

While you're in the hospital, you'll also learn how your VAD works. You'll be given special instructions on:

  • Safety precautions
  • What to do if your control unit signals a problem with your VAD
  • How to respond to emergencies, such as a failed battery or other loss of power to your VAD
  • How to care for your VAD
  • How to bathe without damaging your device
  • How to travel with your VAD
  • How you and your family can manage stress and anxiety regarding your device, and adjust to your new lifestyle
Mar. 13, 2012