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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

July 27, 2020, Wisotzkey, Bethany, MD ,
Ventricular Assist Devices – Bridges to Life

Each year approximately 14,000 children in the United States are hospitalized with heart failure, which ranks it among the most common serious conditions in children. Heart failure occurs when a person’s heart is not working well enough to pump the amount of blood needed to pump through the body and the rest of the vital organs. This can be the result of different causes, like congenital heart disease (heart conditions that your child may be born with), abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), infections of the heart muscle (myocarditis), underlying abnormal heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathies) and exposure to chemotherapy, nutritional and genetic conditions.

Heart failure causes a variety of symptoms, like fast breathing, tiring out more easily, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, swelling, etc. Often, children with heart failure will ultimately require a heart transplant for their condition. However, some children may need something to support them while they wait for a transplant, while other patients may require something to assist them to recovery from an acute condition. In both cases, a ventricular assist device may be the answer.

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a pump that can be placed in the heart to help it pump blood throughout the body. VADs can decrease symptoms of heart failure and allow the patient’s other organs to recover from decreased blood flow. Patients with a VAD are better able to undergo physical therapy and have improved nutrition to help them heal. Some patients can even go home with a VAD to await heart transplantation.


Phoenix Children’s Heart Center has a dedicated VAD team consisting of cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, cardiac intensive care physicians, nurse practitioners, and nurse coordinators to support children who require any type of mechanical circulatory support. To date, we have placed more than 30 VADs in pediatric patients. We offer both short-term (Centrimag, Pedimag) and longer term device options including the Berlin Heart EXCOR, Heartware HVAD, Heart Mate 3 and the Total Artificial Heart. Devices are tailored to the patient’s size as well as underlying condition.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital actively participates as a member of the Advanced Cardiac Therapies Improving Outcomes Network (ACTION), which consists of clinicians, researchers, parents and patients across a wide variety of medical institutions. With the goal of improving critical outcomes by uniting providers and families, sharing data, improving education, and standardizing practice, Phoenix Children’s is consistently looking at ways to improve quality of care and outcomes.

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