Implanting and using a VAD has some rare but serious risks, including:

  • Blood clots. As your blood moves through your VAD, blood clots may form. Blood clots can slow or block normal blood flow through your heart, which can lead to stroke or heart attack, or cause your VAD to stop working.

    Your doctor may prescribe a blood-thinning medication such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) to help prevent blood clots after your VAD is implanted. It's very important to follow the instructions for taking warfarin carefully to reduce the risk of life-threatening blood clots. Warfarin is a medication that can have dangerous side effects if not taken exactly as instructed, so talk to your doctor about any special instructions you'll need to follow.
  • Bleeding. Implanting a VAD requires open-heart surgery. Having open-heart surgery can increase your risk of bleeding after your operation. Taking blood-thinning medications to reduce your risk of clotting also increases your risk of dangerous bleeding into the gastrointestinal track and the brain.
  • Infection. Because the power source and control unit for your VAD are outside your body and connected through a port in your skin, there's an increased risk of germs getting in the port and causing a serious infection. You and your medical team should watch for signs of infection, such as soreness or redness near the port, fluid draining from the site, or a fever.
  • Device malfunctions. It's possible that your VAD may stop working properly after it's implanted. The pumping action of the device might not work exactly right, making it so not enough blood pumps through your heart. The power supply to the device could also fail, or other parts of the device may stop working properly. Each of these problems requires immediate medical attention.
  • Right heart failure. If you have an LVAD implanted, it will pump more blood from the left ventricle of your heart than what your heart might have been used to. Your right ventricle may be too weak to pump the increased amount of blood.

    If you develop right heart failure, medications may help improve the pumping ability of the right ventricle. An RVAD might also be implanted to support the right ventricle if you develop this complication.
Mar. 13, 2012