Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a mechanical pump that is used to support heart function and blood flow in patients with end stage heart failure. In pediatrics, VADs are most commonly used to support the heart while a patient waits for a donor heart (bridge to transplant), to recover a heart in temporary dysfunction (bridge to recovery), or while determining the best course of management (bridge to decision). Lurie Children's Heart Center uses VADs to support the hearts of patients from infancy to young adulthood, including patients with end-stage cardiomyopathy and our most complex congenital heart disease populations. 

Our VAD Program started in 1995. Over the last 25 years, we have implanted more than 55 VADs, with 13 patients supported on devices in 2019. We have implanted a variety of devices such as the HeartWare®, SynCardia®, CentriMag®/PediMag®, Berlin Heart EXCOR®, and HeartMate3®. We also have experience supporting the unique needs of complex congenital patients with VADs, and we have an outpatient program for those patients able to go home on devices such as the HeartWare® and HeartMate3®.

Our goal is to use a family-centered approach to meet the unique needs of every child in end-stage heart failure with a focus on improving strength and rehabilitation while on VAD support.


Frequently Asked Questions About VADs

VADs are used when the heart is no longer able to pump enough blood to the body and needs additional support. 

The VAD Program at Lurie Children's implants a variety of devices, including: 

  • HeartMate3®
  • HeartWare HVAD®
  • CentriMag®
  • PediMag®
  • Berlin Heart EXCOR®
  • SynCardia®
  • Tandem®

  • Prior to the implant, our team works closely with families as we discuss the best strategy to support a patient with end-stage heart failure. We hold family meetings early and often to discuss the VAD, prepare families on what to expect next, answer any questions, and involve our collaborating teams to decide on the best treatment and medication, such as best anticoagulation medication for our smallest patients.
  • The duration of VAD support may vary for all patients. During this time, we monitor our patients closely. With some devices, such as the HeartMate3® and HeartWare HVAD®, we are able to train families extensively and send patients home and back to school.
  • Depending on the indication for VAD placement, some patients will stay on device until they are transplanted, other patients may stay on device while we monitor their recovery and potentially explant the device. 

The Lurie Children's Difference

We specialize in supporting a broad range of conditions, including complex congenital heart disease such as single ventricle heart defects. Having a broad range of devices, including short-term and long-term VADs, give us the ability to tailor device selection to meet the needs of our infants, children, teenagers and young adults.

As part of our family-centered approach, our VAD coordinator is present for daily rounds and works closely with families and the team to ensure up-to-date communication and recommendations for further management. We hold regular multidisciplinary meetings with families to discuss how we can best meet the needs of their child.

We focus on getting children stronger while on VAD support through our Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program, both inpatient and outpatient. Our physical therapistsoccupational therapists, and clinical exercise physiologists are experienced in working with children of all ages on all types of VAD support.

We are also an active participant of The Advanced Cardiac Therapies Improving Outcomes Network (ACTION) with members on the ACTION Leadership Committee. ACTION is an international quality improvement network that unites providers and families to improve critical outcomes for children with heart failure. By collaborating with experts in the field, we have continued to grow and foster a successful VAD program.

Our Specialists

The core VAD Team is comprised of members from the Heart Failure/Heart Transplant ProgramCardiac Critical Care, and Cardiovascular-Thoracic Surgery. Our team works closely with the Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit and Heart Failure Team in the evaluation phase and management of a patient with a VAD. 

VAD Medical Director

Anna G. Joong, MD

Attending Physician, Cardiology

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Cardiology), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

VAD Surgical Director

Michael C. Mongé, MD

Surgical Director, Heart Failure/Heart Transplant Program; Attending Physician, Cardiovascular-Thoracic Surgery; Member, Lurie Children's Surgical Foundation

Assistant Professor of Surgery (Cardiac Surgery), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

VAD Coordinator

Allison Reichhold, APRN-NP

Advanced Practice Provider, Inpatient Cardiology

Heart Failure Team Leaders

Philip T. Thrush, MD

Medical Director, Heart Failure/Heart Transplant Program; Attending Physician, Cardiology

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Cardiology), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Kae Watanabe MD

Attending Physician, Cardiology

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Cardiology), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Cardiac Critical Care Leaders

Kiona Y. Allen, MD

Attending Physician, Cardiology; Interim Medical Director, Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit; Medical Director, Single Ventricle Center of Excellence; Associate Medical Director, NICU-Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Cardiology), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Erin Bressler MD

Cardiac Intensivist, Cardiology

Instructor of Pediatrics (Cardiology) and Pediatrics (Critical Care), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Lindsay M. Jackson, APRN-NP

Lead Advanced Practice Provider, Cardiac Intensive Care Unit

Meghan Matlin

VAD Nurse Liaison

Clinical Education Specialist, Cardiac Care Unit


We have a strong multidisciplinary approach that includes:

We have identified “VAD Champions” – key members of different subspecialities to collaborate on the specific needs of a pediatric patient on VAD support. Some of these subspecialities include: HematologyNeurologyInfectious DiseaseAnesthesiologyInterventional RadiologyAdult Congenital Heart Disease, and many more.

Meet Our VAD Patients

Opal

After spending more than 100 days in the hospital, a heart donor was located for Opal and she underwent transplant surgery in a matter of hours. 

READ THE JANUARY 2019 ARTICLE

READ THE MAY 2019 ARTICLE 

 

Jaheim

At age 11, Jaheim was the world’s youngest person to receive the 50cc SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH-t).

Read More

Sofia

In 2018, Sofia had two birthday wishes: to meet Drake and to receive a new heart. One week after Drake surprised her in in her hospital room, Sofia received her second birthday wish. 

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Wally

Wally's family waited 52 days in the hospital and 41 days on the heart transplant list. Then, on Rare Disease Awareness Day, Wally received his new heart. 

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Saniyah

After being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, Saniyah underwent two major heart surgeries, including one to install a device she named "Jeffrey." 

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Toddlers on the Berlin Heart

A large part of preparing patients for a heart transplant is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy to build up strength as well as to support child development. Watch this in action. 

View the Video

Tiana

In 2008, Tiana became the first person in Illinois to benefit from the use of a device called the Berlin Heart, a small pump located outside the body but connected to the heart. The device is run by a laptop computer and works by helping the right ventricle of the heart pump blood to the lungs, and the left ventricle to pump blood to the body.

Read More

Contact Us

To contact the VAD Program team, email VADteam@luriechildrens.org or call 312.227.4100

Heart Center Family Resource Guide

To help prepare families for their care with Lurie Children's Heart Center, we have compiled a list of resources that may be of use throughout treatment — whether it's getting ready for an inpatient stay or outpatient visit, or learning more about the support services available to patients and families.

Additional Resources/Support

For more information on VADs, please visit the helpful links below.

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