Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)

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Providing a Therapeutic Option for End-stage Heart Failure Patients

In those experiencing the final stages of heart failure, the heart is weakened to an extent that medical intervention is required to keep the body functioning. Through the Woody Stewart Heart Failure Treatment Unit at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, some of these patients have access to left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), which can help ease the heart’s burden.

To understand the role of LVAD in the treatment of end-stage heart failure, you first need to understand heart failure’s impact on the body.

“End-stage heart failure means the heart has weakened to the point that it can no longer meet the demands of the body and supply blood to vital organs,” says Brenda Hott, MD, FACC, medical director of the Heart Failure Program at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. “Patients with end-stage heart failure often have profound fatigue, very limited activity, shortness of breath and swelling. They may also have problems with mental activity and renal function.”

These patients are typically given intravenous infusions of medications called inotropes that help the heart do its job. But these medications aren’t ideal.

“Although inotropes can make patients feel better and temporarily help, they have significant side effects,” Dr. Hott says. “When these medications are needed, life expectancy is typically six to 12 months with the medication and less without it. LVAD may be a better therapeutic option for some patients.”

What does a LVAD do?

An LVAD is a surgically implanted, battery-operated pump that helps the left ventricle of the heart pump blood to the body. It’s an option for two distinct groups of heart failure patients—those using it to sustain them before a heart transplant, and those who aren’t eligible for a heart transplant and are using it to prolong life.

The device has a tube that pulls blood from the left ventricle into a pump, which then sends the blood into the aorta. This helps the weakened heart function. Another tube goes from the pump to the outside of the body through the abdominal wall. The external portion of the LVAD contains the battery and control system.

“The life expectancy of patients after LVAD is improved compared with patients who are treated by medications alone,” Dr. Hott says. “Quality of life is also improved.”

Who’s a Candidate?

LVAD isn’t appropriate for all end-stage heart failure patients. At Northeast Georgia Medical Center, a thorough screening process helps determine appropriate candidates.

“Patients who are being considered for LVADs undergo extensive evaluation, very similar to what you go through before a transplant,” Dr. Hott says. “We know that there are certain conditions associated with end-stage heart failure where advanced therapies such as transplant and LVADs will not work well. Our process is designed to help identify those conditions.

“Patients with LVADs require a lot of social support in order to do well. The evaluation process allows us to determine the treatment option that will be the best for each patient.”

A Comprehensive Heart Failure Program

Northeast Georgia Medical Center has a well-established, multifaceted heart failure program. The Woody Stewart Heart Failure Treatment Unit is a 16-bed unit dedicated to the treatment of acute heart failure.

“Staff in our unit are specially trained in the care of patients with heart failure,” Dr. Hott says. “We also have a teaching facility that allows our nutritionist and chef to teach patients how to cook good-tasting, low-sodium cardiac meals.”

To obtain a referral for the Heart Failure Program at NGMC, request an appointment with a cardiologist at The Heart Center of NGMC by calling 770-534-2020 or by visiting


  • Brenda Hott, MD
  • Mehrdad Toosi, MD
  • Ugochukwu Egolum, MD

Have Questions?

Call the Heart & Vascular Services department at 770-219-5416 or send us a contact form for more information.

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