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Discharge Instructions for a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

You had a procedure to insert a ventricular assist device (VAD). This device replaces the pumping action of your heart and may be used for your left ventricle (most common), right ventricle, or both ventricles. Usually, a VAD is inserted as a bridge to a later heart transplant. But healthcare providers have also found that a VAD gives the heart a chance to rest and recover. In some cases, the heart is able to resume some normal activity, which may eliminate the need for a heart transplant. For some people who are not candidates for a heart transplant, the VAD is considered permanent. This is referred to as destination therapy.

There are different styles and brands of VADs. Caring for your VAD will depend on the type you get. They have a control unit (small computer) and a power source that can be plugged into a power supply (wall outlet), or use rechargeable batteries.

Here's what you need to know about home care.

Activity

  • Don't lift, pull, or push anything heavier than 10 pounds during the first 6 weeks after your surgery.

  • Don't let your control unit or power source get wet. Discuss care of the control unit and power pack with your care team before discharge. Getting your power source wet could stop your VAD. Discuss washing with your care team.

  • Don't swim or play any water sports. No boating, hot tubs, or baths.

  • Don't drive.

Special precautions

  • Your VAD is a very special device. It needs a special team to help you with care. Always know who this team is and how to reach the coordinator. 

  • Keep the following near you at all times:

    • Hospital's paging number for the VAD coordinator heart transplant coordinator

    • Spare controller and backup power pack with charged batteries

  • Take all medicines exactly as prescribed by your provider.

  • Test your system every day.

  • Make sure your family or someone in your home knows how to change the power supply and care for your device.

  • Notify the power company that you have a VAD. The power company will place you on a priority list to have your power restored first in case of a power outage. Your VAD coordinator can assist you with this. It should be done before you leave the hospital.

  • Carry an ID card that identifies your device.

  • Take your temperature every day. Call your healthcare provider or your VAD coordinator if it is above 100.4°F (38°C).

  • Make sure you understand how to monitor your blood pressure with the VAD. Monitoring your blood pressure will be different. A normal blood pressure cuff will not measure it properly. 

Other home care

  • Take your medicines exactly as directed. Don't skip doses.

  • You will have to be on blood thinners to prevent blood clots from forming in the device. Blood clots can cause a stroke or other arterial blockage. Follow up with your provider for all recommended blood test monitoring.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Ask your healthcare provider for menus and other diet information. Generally, you should not drink more than 2 liters of water in a day or eat more than 2,000 mg of salt.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call 911 if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, or numbness or weakness on one side of your face or body.

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Signs of infection at your device's exit site (redness, swelling, drainage, or warmth)

  • Device alarm sounds

  • Fatigue that doesn't get better

  • Dizziness that doesn't go away

  • Swollen hands, feet, or ankles

Online Medical Reviewer: John Hanrahan MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham RN BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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