The following are common questions about recovery and care for those with an LVAD. You will receive more information when you are evaluated for LVAD.
How often do you need to follow up?
You will have many follow-up visits after you get your LVAD. You will have weekly appointments for a few weeks, which will taper off to monthly visits. The visits are needed to make sure your LVAD is working as it should and that you are doing well.
After the first year, you will have fewer visits. Your doctor will let you know how often you need to be seen. If you are waiting for a heart transplant you will need to be seen at least once every three months.
If you do not live near Cleveland Clinic you may be able to have your follow-up visits with an LVAD team near your home. Your Cleveland Clinic doctor will talk to you about this option if needed.
How long can you be supported by a LVAD?
Although implantation of a left ventricular assist device as destination therapy is considered permanent therapy, it does not cure heart failure.
The amount of time you can receive support from an LVAD varies. It depends on the type of LVAD you have, whether it is being used as a bridge to transplant or destination therapy, and your overall health. The newest LVADs are designed to last a few years, but because the technology is so new, it is not possible to know just how long they can support patients with them. Some Cleveland Clinic patients have been living with an LVAD for more than 5 years.
How will I know how to care for my LVAD?
To enhance quality of life, all patients with a LVAD must carefully follow the guidelines provided by their health care team.
After the implantation procedure, a detailed education program is provided to you and your caregivers to ensure safety and proper use of the device. You’ll learn how to manage the device and trouble-shoot potential emergency situations. You’ll be required to demonstrate your knowledge about the device before you are discharged from the hospital. You’ll also need to demonstrate independence with self-care activities before you are discharged.
In addition, you’ll be given guidelines about your activities, including swimming, showering, bathing and resuming sexual activity; medications, diet, and when to call the doctor.
At home, you’ll need to have an accurate scale as well as a thermometer. Some patients will need to monitor their blood pressure at home. Your nurse will provide specific guidelines. You will receive information about how to reach the health care team when necessary. A medical team member is always available to answer your questions, 24 hours a day.
Can I go home after receiving the LVAD?
Yes. When you are able to go home will depend on your rate of recovery and your medical condition. Our goal is to help you go home as soon as possible. Some patients may need to stay in an intermediate care facility or rehabilitation center for a while until you are strong enough to go home. Your health care team will help you with this process. If you think you will require care at home, talk to your health care team. Our Center for Connected Care can assist with local service as well as nationwide.
If you live more than two hours away from Cleveland Clinic, you will need to stay in the local area for two weeks before you go home.
It’s very important to continue making healthy lifestyle changes before and after the LVAD implant procedure, including:
- Stop using tobacco – your health care provider can refer you to a smoking cessation specialist if you need help.
- Eat a healthy diet, recommended by your health care team.
- Stop drinking alcohol.
- Don’t use illegal drugs.
- Exercise regularly – Cardiac rehabilitation is an important program to take part in after surgery. You may have some restrictions such as swimming, contact sports and weight lifting.
If you need help making lifestyle changes, talk to your health care providers to assist with strategies or to refer you to other resources.