Lurie Children’s Premier Ventricular Assist Device Program Hits Milestone: 100 Patients

Ann  &  Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago is the home to the #1 ranked pediatric Heart Center in Illinois and offers one of the highest-volume pediatric ventricular assist device (VAD) programs in the world. 

A VAD is a mechanical device used to keep a heart going, often in between the time heart failure occurs and a heart transplant can occur. These devices are often the best option to help patients survive and gain strength while waiting on the transplant list. 

Recently, the hospital reached an important milestone, supporting its 100th patient with a VAD. Learn more about the program below with Dr. Anna Joong, Medical Director of Lurie Children’s Ventricular Assist Device Program. 

How busy is Lurie Children’s VAD program? 

Lurie Children’s Hospital is one of the busiest pediatric VAD programs in the country. Since launching in 1995, we have supported more than 100 patients with end-stage heart failure on VAD support with over 60 taking place in the last 5 years. Our program has grown tremendously, and we now average between 10-15 VADs per year with a variety of devices available. 

Why is Lurie Children’s VAD program one of the best in the country? 

Lurie Children’s VAD program specializes in supporting a broad range of heart conditions, including complex congenital heart diseases such as single ventricle heart defects. Having a broad range of devices, including short-term and long-term VADs, gives us the ability to tailor device selection to meet the needs of our infants, children, teenagers and young adults.

We are leaders in the field with regard to experience in supporting some of the most challenging single ventricle physiologies known as bidirectional Glenn circulation. We are also the only program in the state with the most experience sending young people home – and even to school – on VAD support. 

Why has the VAD program grown so much since it began in 1995? 

As Lurie Children's Heart Transplant team has expanded over time, we have increasing volumes of children referred to our center for end-stage heart failure and approximately one-third of these patients require VAD support as a bridge to heart transplantation.  

We take a team approach in everything we do at Lurie Children’s which has been critical to our success and growth. Our VAD team is comprised of a VAD coordinator, VAD medical director, VAD surgical director, members from the heart failure/heart transplant team, cardiac critical care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, exercise physiologists, nursing, as well as VAD champions on many of the subspecialties to collaborate on the specific needs of each pediatric patient on VAD support.  

As part of our family-centered approach, our VAD coordinator is present for daily inpatient rounds and works closely with families and the team to ensure up-to-date communication and recommendations for further management.  

Who is involved in VAD implantation and maintenance for a child? 

Preparation is key in the care of patients needing VAD support. We aim to identify patients early to allow time to counsel families on pathways forward, show them the devices in person, and be transparent about the risks, benefits, and goals of VAD support. The goal of VAD support is to allow patients to get stronger as they either wait for a heart, or in some cases for recovery of their heart, and our pediatric physical therapists, occupational therapists and exercise physiologists have unique expertise in caring for children on VAD support. 

How is Lurie Children’s VAD team working to further improve ventricular assist devices? 

We are active members of the national quality improvement collaborative known as ACTION - the Advanced Cardiac Therapies Improving Outcomes Network, and we work as leaders on a national level to improve outcomes for children with heart failure.  

Learn more about the hospital’s VAD program in this video and this podcast.

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