UF Health Shands implants first LVAD device of its kind in the Southeast

These days, batteries can power just about anything — smartphones, cars, and even your heart.

Thanks to left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), patients who are in end-stage heart failure experience an improved quality of life — whether the surgically implanted device is a bridge to transplant for those on the wait list, or a destination therapy for those who do not qualify as a transplant candidate.

In September, UF Health Shands Hospital implanted the first LVAD device of its kind — one that just might solve some of the common hiccups associated with previous models.

Improvements, like advances in inflow and engineering properties, may make the new LVAD a smoother option for patients who qualify. Currently, UF is the Southeast’s only center of enrollment for the EVAHEART’s clinical trial. With a dedicated advanced heart failure program that has grown to be a national leader in quality and research in mechanical support, UF Health’s team memb

headshot of Eric Jeng in white coat
Eric Jeng, MD

ers are uniquely positioned to take heart failure care to new heights.

“In the past year alone, we’ve implanted the most (LVAD)} devices in the state,” said Eric Jeng, M.D., an assistant professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery and surgical director of the Mechanical Circulatory Support program at UF. “Clinical trials like this offer opportunities to advance the science of what we can do for our patients.”

Currently, there is only one other FDA-approved “pump” available for patients — the HeartMate 3. A new device, Jeng said, would offer patients an alternative.

For physicians, the real utility of the device is its immediate ability to help treat patients who otherwise would not be eligible for a transplant or are unable to access a transplant despite acute need.

Typically, the LVAD’s mechanical pump relies on batteries to help the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle) circulate blood to the rest of the body.

But like other mechanical solutions, LVADS can pose certain challenges — namely, bleeding and clotting disorders, said Mustafa M. Ahmed, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Florida and medical director of the Mechanical Circulatory Support Program.

“[LVAD] therapy is amazing. It helps people live longer and feel better,” Ahmed said. “Improvements on preexisting devices would center around making them more biocompatible.”

headshot of Mustafa Ahmed
Mustafa Ahmed, MD

Of course, any intervention is a welcome respite from the common symptoms of end-stage heart failure.

“End-stage heart failure is like a chronic type of shock,” Jeng said. “Your heart can’t pump hard enough or well enough for your body to meet your needs. That’s why you’re tired. That’s why your organs end up failing.”

And the more research opportunities for mechanical support, the more opportunities to fine-tune preexisting devices and create new ones.

“From an academic standpoint, there’s something very exciting about being a consistent part of so many major trials in this area,” Ahmed said. “But ultimately, we use devices like the LVAD for patients to be able to continue their life. And they’ve been proven to not only enhance their quality of life, but improve their survival.”