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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

“It's certainly something special to be given a second chance, and it's even more of a blessing to know that my story can give others with
heart failure the same hope.”

Joe Ann 8 year HeartMate II recipient
and was the longest survivor on a single device

Heart failure FAQs

Here are some answers to common questions about heart failure.


The following are common questions about left ventricular assist devices (LVADs).

  • What is an LVAD?

    LVAD stands for left ventricular assist device. It is a mechanical device that circulates blood throughout the body when the heart is too weak to pump blood adequately on its own. It is sometimes called a heart pump or VAD. HeartMate II is a small, implantable LVAD that represents a breakthrough in medical technology and has rapidly become the most widely used and extensively studied device of its kind in the world.

  • How big are LVADs?

    LVADs vary in size, but HeartMate II measures approximately 3 inches in length and weighs approximately 10 ounces. It has one moving part, a continuously spinning rotor that helps circulate blood.

  • Where can I get an LVAD?

    There are more than 350 centers worldwide that implant HeartMate II. For a list of centers near you, enter your zip code in the Find a HeartMate II Center box at the top of this page.

HeartMate II FAQs

These are the questions people most often ask about HeartMate II.

  • Is HeartMate II FDA approved?

    Yes. HeartMate II is the only LVAD FDA approved for both Bridge to Transplantation and Destination Therapy. HeartMate II is the most widely used and extensively studied LVAD available today.

  • Is HeartMate II a good treatment option for advanced heart failure patients?

    Yes. AHA guidelines recommend an LVAD, such as HeartMate II, as an appropriate treatment option in cases of advanced heart failure. Studies have shown that patients treated with an LVAD can live longer and enjoy a much improved quality of life compared with those being treated with medication alone. There are approximately 50,000 to 100,000 advanced heart failure patients who could benefit from an LVAD in the US.

  • How is HeartMate II used?

    HeartMate II may be used to support patients and improve their quality of life while they wait for a donor heart to become available. This is known as Bridge to Transplantation. It may also be used as a permanent option for patients who are not eligible for heart transplantation due to age or other medical conditions. Use of the device in this manner is known as Destination Therapy. In either situation, without the option of an LVAD, advanced heart failure patients have poor prospects for survival and significantly limited lifestyles.

  • Is HeartMate II safe and effective?

    HeartMate II is the only LVAD FDA approved for both Bridge to TransplantationX CLOSEBridge to Transplantation– Temporary support forpeople with heart failure who are waiting for a heart transplant. Bridge to Transplantation involves the use of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). and Destination TherapyX CLOSEDestination Therapy– Permanent support for advanced-stage heart failure for patients who do not qualify for a heart transplant. Destination Therapy refers to the implantation of a ventricular assist device (VAD) for long-term use, rather than as a Bridge to Transplantation., also known as long-term support. Destination Therapy is for people who cannot qualify to receive a heart transplant. HeartMate II has been used in more than 20,000 people worldwide. Some people have been living with HeartMate II for over 8 years.

  • Is HeartMate II an artificial heart?

    No. HeartMate II is not an artificial heart, nor is it a heart replacement. The patient’s native heart is not removed. HeartMate II attaches to the heart and is designed to assist —or take over—the pumping function of the patient’s left ventricle—the main pumping chamber of the heart.

  • How does HeartMate II work?

    HeartMate II is designed to supplement the pumping function of the heart. The device is placed just below the diaphragm in the abdomen. It is attached to the left ventricle and the aorta, the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to the entire body. An external, wearable system that includes a small controller and 2 batteries, is attached by an external driveline. The wearable system is either worn under or on top of clothing.

  • What kind of relief does HeartMate II provide to people with heart failure?

    HeartMate II can restore quality to the lives of advanced heart failure patients. A recent study showed that over 80% of HeartMate II recipients were virtually free of heart failure symptoms at 6 months, and remained so for 2 years. Before the study, they started out with severe symptoms, even at rest.

  • How active can patients be with HeartMate II?

    Because patients are in a severe stage of heart failure before receiving the device, they are very debilitated and typically very limited in activity level. After receiving HeartMate II, the majority of patients can return to their favorite daily activities, with the primary limitation being water immersion. Many patients are able to return to work and resume hobbies that they haven’t been able to do in years. Moreover, in May 2013, the FDA approved Thoratec’s next-generation HeartMate II Pocket Controller, which is lighter and more compact than previous LVAD system controllers, and is designed to support the active lifestyles that patients with HeartMate II LVADs are leading.

  • Where can I find out what it is like for people to live with
    HeartMate II, from people who have been implanted?

    Many patients have shared their stories about how HeartMate II has impacted their lives. You can view these stories here.

  • What is the risk of stroke with HeartMate II?

    HeartMate II has the lowest published stroke rate of any continuous flow LVAD.* In fact, its stroke rate is similar to that of other commonly performed cardiovascular surgical procedures. It is the most widely studied and used LVAD worldwide.

    *Based on published data from multicenter experience and separate studies, which may involve different patient populations and other variables. For indications for use, contraindications, warnings, and adverse events view our HeartMate II safety information.

  • Are there other risks?

    Like any major surgery, getting an LVAD comes with risks, including: bleeding, infection, stroke, device malfunction, and death. Talk to your doctor to understand the risks and benefits.

  • How long does HeartMate II last?

    HeartMate II is designed to last for years. HeartMate II recipients have been living with a single device for over 8 years now, and over 700 recipients have been supported more than 5 years.

  • How long does a battery charge last?

    The latest generation of batteries used to support HeartMate II may last up to 12 hours before needing to be recharged.

  • Who pays for my HeartMate II?

    In most cases, HeartMate II is covered by Medicare and Medicaid. It is also covered by many private insurance plans. Speak with your insurance provider for details.

  • What happens if HeartMate II fails?

    HeartMate II is designed to work for a long time. The Pocket Controller is always checking the system operation. It will let you know if there is a problem, and you will learn what to look for, too. The system also will be checked during your regular medical visits.

  • What about a power outage?

    Having extra batteries charged and ready will keep you prepared for a power outage. You will also receive a power module, which can be moved to another location with power or plugged into a car. In an emergency, your Pocket Controller also has at least an additional 15 minutes of backup battery power.

*Based on published data from multicenter experience and separate studies, which may involve different patient populations and other variables.

Getting an LVAD comes with some risks. For potential complications and adverse events, click here.

For indications for use, contraindications, warnings, and adverse events view our HeartMate II safety information. Individual experiences, symptoms, situations, and circumstances may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified healthcare provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment.

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Quick Poll


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I am an advanced heart failure patient seeking new treatment. I am a caregiver looking for treatment alternatives. I am familiar with HeartMate II and LVADs and want to learn more. My doctor has talked to me about HeartMate II/LVAD therapy, and I want to learn more.