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Who Invented the Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)?

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The first LVAD was developed in the 1960s by Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz, a cardiac surgeon at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. However, the device was not successful in extending the lives of patients with heart failure. In the 1980s, Dr. Robert Jarvik modified the design, creating a smaller, more efficient LVAD that could be implanted into a patient’s chest. This version of the LVAD was approved by the FDA in 1994 and has since been used to help thousands of people around the world with severe heart failure.

Hello there! Have you ever wondered who invented the Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)? This life-saving piece of technology has been instrumental in helping patients with severe heart failure. The first version of this device was developed in the 1960s by Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz, a cardiac surgeon at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s when Dr. Robert Jarvik modified its design to create a smaller and more efficient LVAD that the device gained wider acceptance. Since then, the LVAD has been approved by the FDA in 1994 and has helped thousands of patients worldwide. Let’s dive deeper into the incredible story of how the LVAD came to be.

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The Invention of LVAD

In the field of medical science, the invention of left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is considered a remarkable achievement in saving the lives of heart patients. This device has the capability to regulate the blood flow from the left ventricle to the rest of the body. This article will provide an insight into the background of LVAD invention and the early attempts to assist a failing heart.

Medical Background

The heart plays a crucial role in pumping blood to different parts of the body. When the heart becomes weak, it leads to various heart diseases such as congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and heart attack. In the early days, there were only limited options for treating heart diseases, including lifestyle changes, medications, and surgeries.

As medical science progressed, technology paved the way for advanced treatments. The need for developing an artificial heart or a device that could assist the failing heart became crucial. Scientists and medical professionals worked together to bring about this change, leading to the development of LVAD.

Early Inventions

There were early attempts to develop a device to assist a failing heart. Surgeons at the Texas Heart Institute, Dr. Michael DeBakey, and Dr. George Noon, were among the first to develop a device that could help the heart pump blood. The team created a pump that they implanted inside the chest cavity, and it fit around the failing heart. The device worked by drawing blood from the left ventricle and then pumping it to the ascending aorta.

Other attempts were also made to develop artificial hearts. In 1969, Dr. Denton Cooley implanted the first total artificial heart into a patient named Haskell Karp. The heart kept Karp alive for 64 hours before he died due to a blood clot. Although the invention was groundbreaking, the artificial heart was not yet a viable solution due to its limitations.

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The Contribution of Dr. Robert Jarvik

Dr. Robert Jarvik is famously known for developing the first permanently implantable artificial heart. He was born on May 11, 1946, in Midland, Michigan, and graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in zoology. Dr. Jarvik completed his medical degree at the University of Utah.

He began working on the Jarvik-7, which was a groundbreaking device at the time. It was the first artificial heart that could be implanted permanently rather than being used as a temporary measure. The Jarvik-7 could provide support to failing hearts while patients waited for a heart transplant.

The first patient to receive the Jarvik-7 was Barney Clark, a retired dentist. The surgery was carried out on December 2, 1982. Although he survived for 112 days, he experienced various complications during his recovery, leading to his eventual death.

Despite the initial failure of the Jarvik-7, Dr. Jarvik’s invention opened doors for the development of other heart-assisting devices such as LVAD. His contributions and dedication to the medical community laid the ground for the development of advancements in heart surgeries and procedures, ultimately leading to the invention of LVAD.

In conclusion, LVAD has revolutionized the world of medical science with its ability to assist a failing heart. The early attempts by medical professionals to develop a device, the contributions of Dr. Jarvik, and his dedication have paved the way for advanced medical solutions today.

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The Development of LVAD

The implantation of the left ventricular assist device (LVAD) as a treatment for heart failure has helped to extend the life of patients who are ineligible for transplant, awaiting transplant, or who are awaiting recovery of their heart function. But who invented the LVAD?

The Early Years of LVAD

The concept of LVAD was first introduced in the 1940s. However, early attempts to give mechanical support to a failing heart through external cardiac compression had limited success. In the 1950s, Dr. Michael E. DeBakey from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, pioneered the use of an implantable pump for cardiac support. But, the first generation device failed to gain widespread use as it had limitations in terms of durability and practicality.

In the 1970s, a group of scientists at the University of Utah attempted to develop a more practical LVAD system. However, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that LVAD became a more viable treatment option for heart failure. Dr. Robert Jarvik, a cardiovascular surgeon, led the design and development of the Jarvik 7, which was the first artificial heart that was implanted into a human being in 1982. Though the Jarvik 7 had its challenges, this achievement provided an impetus for further LVAD development.

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The Collaboration Between Dr. Akutsu and Dr. DeVries

The first implantable LVAD was developed by Dr. Akutsu and Dr. DeVries in 1983, just a year after the implantation of the Jarvik 7 artificial heart. Dr. Akutsu was a cardiovascular surgeon who previously worked under Dr. Jarvik to develop the Jarvik 7. Meanwhile, Dr. DeVries was an experienced cardiac surgeon who had more than a decade of experience with heart assist devices. Both surgeons aimed to develop a device that would provide long-term cardiac support to patients waiting for a heart transplant.

Together, Dr. Akutsu and Dr. DeVries designed and implanted the first successful LVAD into a patient. The device, called the Akutsu-DeVries LVAD, was an early generation device that utilized a blood pump connected to a flexible liner that was incorporated into the ventricle of the heart. This design was significant as it ensured that the pump did not come into contact with the blood and prevented blood clot formation.

The Commercialization of LVAD

Following the success of the Akutsu-DeVries LVAD, LVADs began to become more sophisticated, and manufacturers started commercializing these devices. By the early 1990s, several manufacturers had developed reliable LVADs for clinical use.

The HeartMate® LVAD, developed by Thoratec, was one of the first LVADs that had been made available commercially. The device was first implanted in France in 1988 and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a bridge-to-transplant device in the United States in 1994. In 2008, the FDA approved the HeartMate II® LVAD, a smaller, more efficient, and more durable device that offered a significantly reduced risk of blood clot formation.

The devices have since continued to evolve. Today, LVADs are much smaller and more advanced than the early prototypes of the 1980s. They have become the standard of care for patients with end-stage heart failure, who are not suitable for heart transplant. In addition, they are increasingly being used as an alternative for patients waiting for transplant, as this wait period can be long and fraught with difficulties.


In conclusion, the development of LVAD has revolutionized the management of heart failure. From its inception in the 1940s, to the first successful LVAD implantation in 1983, the technology has come a long way. Today, LVADs are commercially available, and the devices have become a reliable, safe, and effective solution for patients who suffer from heart failure. With continuous improvement in technology, there is no doubt that LVADs will continue to benefit a growing number of patients in need.

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LVAD: Risks and Considerations

Possible Complications of LVAD

While LVADs have revolutionized the treatment of heart failure, they are not without risks and complications. As with any medical procedure, there are potential risks that must be considered before deciding to get an LVAD.

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Some of the possible complications associated with LVADs include bleeding, infection, blood clots, stroke, device malfunction, and pump thrombosis. Bleeding can occur due to the blood-thinning medications required for the device to function properly. Infection can also occur due to the driveline – the tube that connects the device to the external controller. Blood clots and strokes can occur due to blood flow changes caused by the device. Meanwhile, device malfunction and pump thrombosis can occur due to problems with the device itself.

If any of these complications occur, they can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Patients with LVADs must be closely monitored by their healthcare team to ensure that any complications are detected and treated as early as possible.

The Importance of Emotional Preparedness

Getting an LVAD is a major decision that not only affects a patient physically but emotionally as well. Patients and their families must be emotionally prepared for the changes that come with having an LVAD.

Patients may experience anxiety, depression, or other psychological issues while adjusting to the device. This is why emotional support is crucial for patients with LVADs. Having a strong support system can help patients cope with the challenges of living with an LVAD.

Additionally, patients must also be prepared for changes in their quality of life. LVADs are life-saving devices, but they also come with certain limitations. Patients may have to make significant lifestyle changes such as limiting physical activity, restricting travel, and making dietary changes.

Financial Considerations

LVADs are expensive devices, and their cost can be a significant barrier for patients who need them. The cost of the device can range from $100,000 to $400,000, depending on the type of device and any necessary accessories.

However, most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover the cost of LVADs. Patients and their families may also be eligible for financial assistance through various programs.

Another financial consideration is the ongoing cost of managing the device. Patients must pay for the cost of any replacement parts, batteries, and supplies needed to maintain the device. This can add up, and patients must consider these costs when making the decision to get an LVAD.


LVADs are life-saving devices that have transformed the treatment of heart failure. However, they are not without risks and complications. Patients and their families must carefully consider the potential risks, emotional impact, and financial cost before deciding to get an LVAD. With proper monitoring, emotional support, and financial planning, patients can successfully manage their LVAD and enjoy an improved quality of life.

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