Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)

For a child awaiting a heart transplant, a ventricular assist device (VAD) can be a lifeline until the time of transplant.

Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in South Florida offering the Berlin Heart, Impella and Heartware HVAD devices to pediatric patients with end-stage heart failure. These devices can provide lifesaving support for children who must wait weeks or months for a heart transplant.

What Is a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)?

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical device that supports blood circulation by assisting the heart. A VAD works as a temporary artificial heart, helping to pump blood.

After surgeons implant a VAD, it remains in place until a child receives a heart transplant. After children recover from the VAD implant procedure, the VAD lets them be awake and active. With the VAD, they can breathe, talk, eat and move (including walking and playing) on their own. 

We use VADs primarily for children who are awaiting heart transplant (as a “bridge to transplant”). We sometimes use a VAD as a bridge to recovery for certain conditions, when a child’s heart function is expected to improve over time.

VAD support is available to infants, children, teens and young adults. At Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, we have several types of devices that can accommodate patients of different sizes, ages and medical needs.

Why Choose Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital for VAD?

A VAD is able to sustain a child whose heart may be too weak to work on its own, while still keeping the child comfortable. We offer:

  • Heart failure care for South Florida’s children:
    • We were the first hospital in South Florida to use the Berlin Heart Excor device to support infants and small children to the time of transplant. Children supported by this device must await transplant in the hospital.
    • We are the first hospital in South Florida to use the Heartware HVAD to support pediatric patients as a bridge to transplant. This device may be used in larger children and teens. It makes it possible for the recipient to wait at home for heart transplant and still have the benefits of mechanical circulatory support.
  • Team approach: Children on VAD support may wait weeks or months for a heart. While children are in the hospital, our team uses all available resources to take care of them in every way possible. Part of our mission is to help children maintain as much of a normal lifestyle as possible. You can call on resources including:
    • Heart failure physicians and surgeons who carefully monitor your child’s condition, responding to changes that can occur with progressive heart failure. The physician team is available 24/7.
    • Advanced practice nurses with expertise in VAD management and support. The nursing team helps your family learn to adapt to living with a VAD. They help with modifying activities, dress and daily schedule around necessary VAD care. Patients can call on nurses 24/7.
    • Our pediatric social worker and psychologist can help you and your family transition to a new and different lifestyle. They also support patients and families in coping with the challenges imposed by a serious cardiac diagnosis.
    • Nutritionists ensure your child is getting adequate nutrition to support the additional caloric needs of a growing child with a failing heart.
    • Child life specialists engage in play and coordinate activities such as celebrity visits, special celebrations, pet therapy and music therapy.
    • An on-site classroom and Broward County school system teacher. School sessions can be held in your child’s room, if necessary. 
  • Heart transplant: When a heart is ready, we perform the heart transplant surgery and provide lifelong follow-up care. We are one of the most active transplant centers in Florida, with 100 percent survival rates at the 1-year and 3-year marks, including over a dozen patients successfully supported to the time of heart transplant. Learn more about heart transplant.

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment or learn about our award-winning pediatric heart team, call 954-265-3437.