Ventricular Assist Device

Frequently Asked Questions after Receiving an LVAD

The following questions are frequently asked by LVAD patients. Answering questions in advance can help alleviate many concerns and fears. Be sure to ask questions you do not understand or you feel aren't answered the way you want them to be to your doctor at your next appointment.

  1. How long can I be supported by an LVAD?

    The LVAD can be used as long as your heart needs it. If your heart needs support for an extended period, your pump will need to be replaced some day. Patients have been supported for over two years on an LVAD.

  2. Will I be able to take a bath or shower while implanted with the LVAD?

    Taking a bath [and swimming] is NOT allowed since you might get water inside the LVAD. However, you can take showers once your doctor says it is okay and after the nurses have trained you on how to protect your external LVAD equipment.

  3. Is exercising possible while being supported by the LVAD?

    Yes. Once your doctor has approved for you to exercise and you are clear about the exercises you need, you may go ahead with your exercise routine. LVAD patients have participated in many different activities, including biking, ballroom dancing, fishing, and golfing. However, you should avoid exercising in very hot, humid conditions or very cold temperatures. Walking is an excellent exercise for LVAD patients. Consider going to the local mall for a safer, more comfortable walking environment. Contact sports, excessive jumping, and swimming are NOT allowed.

  4. Will I need to take medications?

    All patients have different medication needs after device implantation. Patients often require fewer medications after getting the device than before surgery because of improved circulation. Your doctor will determine which medications you will need.

  5. Do I need to follow a special diet?

    Healthy eating is a good idea for everyone, but it is especially important for people living with a heart pump. Because of the pump's location inside the body, some patients may lose their appetite after implant surgery, but this usually goes away over time. You may find it easier to eat many smaller meals throughout the day [instead of a fewer larger meals]. Until your appetite comes back, your diet might be supplemented with high-calorie or high-protein liquid beverages. Your doctor will let you know if you are on any special diet plans.

  6. Will I be able to have sex?

    Once you have recovered from your pump implant operation, you should be able to engage in sexual activities. Sexual activities can be resumed 6-8 weeks after implant, when your doctor says it is okay. When you resume sexual relations, avoid positions that will interfere with the exit sit or cause tension or pulling on the percutaneous tube. The LVAD rate may speed up or slow down during sex. Don't be alarmed; this is normal.

    Note: If you are taking any drugs [prescribed or over-the-counter] to improve sexual performance, be sure to discuss this with your doctor. These drugs may be contraindicated in your current condition.

  7. Can I travel?

    Your doctor will let you know if and when you can take trips away from home and what forms of transportation [such as automobiles or airplanes] are safe and acceptable. If your doctor approves you for travel, your healthcare team will work with you to make sure that you are prepared to do this safely.

    Automobile Travel

    Automobile airbags deploy with a lot of force. The force could cause damage or bleeding if the airbag deploys and hits your abdomen or chest. Therefore, you should avoid riding in the front seat of cars that have airbags [also known as supplemental restraint systems, or "SRS" for short].

    Airplane Travel

    There are no absolute rules against airline travel. However, before travelling by air, you should first talk with your hospital contact person and/or doctor. Generally, he or she will call airline security for you. Among other things, arrangements should be made regarding essential equipment that needs to be carried on the airplane with you. Also, some equipment may need to be inspected by hand instead of having it go through the x-ray machine. Your hospital contact person should give you information about the LVAD hospital closest to your destination. That hospital's LVAD Team may be notified of the dates you are going to be in their area. Ask for permission to store carry-on items in the flight attendants' closet.

    Note: LVAD electronics will NOT interfere with the airplane's radar [and vice versa].

  8. Can I return to work?

    The possibility of returning to work depends on your health and the type of work you do. Talk with your doctor about whether you can return to work.