Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program

Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Program

Innovative pump devices to help children's hearts

We provide VADs to help children with severe heart failure or congenital heart disease stay healthy and strong.

Some children are born with structural heart conditions or have other heart diseases that cause heart failure, when the heart can’t pump as well as it should. A VAD is a small, electric device attached to or implanted in the heart to help it pump better.

A VAD can help a child stay healthy as they wait for a heart transplant. It can also be a long-term treatment for heart failure, supporting a child’s heart for many years.

At the Heart Center at Children’s Health℠, we offer the only pediatric VAD program in North Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. We’re also one of only about 35 such programs in the U.S. Our team provides expert care and services to help your child and family live well with a VAD.

Little girl posing for photo

Innovative technology for kids' heart support

VAD technology can be lifesaving for young patients who need heart support. Whether they require help for a few hours or a year, Children’s Health℠ has the expertise to provide the care these children need to lead full lives. 

Multiple devices to support children of every size

Our skilled team specializes in implanting and managing VADs in children from newborns through teens and young adults. We have extensive training and experience in using VADs to support children as a bridge to transplant or as long-term treatment. Our goal is to improve your child’s health and quality of life, using the right device at the right time.

Adult-sized VADs are too large for infants and younger children, who need devices that can adjust to their rapid growth and activity levels. That’s why Children’s Health offers a variety of VADs designed specifically for children, no matter their age or size. Our skilled pediatric heart surgeons will decide which device is right for your child based on their health, size and other factors.

The VADs our team uses include:

  • HeartMate 3™. Surgeons attach this VAD to the heart with a small line through the skin that connects to external equipment. The HeartMate 3 provides long-term support for the left side of the heart in larger children and teens. Usually, your child can go home and back to school and other activities with this device.
  • CentriMag™. This external (sits outside the body) VAD connects with tubes to the left, right or both sides of the heart to pump blood. The CentriMag provides short- or long-term support for children as they wait for a transplant. Although your child will need to stay in the hospital with this VAD, they may be able to do physical therapy.
  • Berlin Heart EXCOR® Pediatric. Another type of external VAD, this device can support the left, right or both sides of the heart. The EXCOR Pediatric is designed for small children, toddlers and infants awaiting transplant, and your child will need to stay in the hospital.
  • SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH-t). Our heart surgeons implant this device inside a child’s chest to replace the whole heart. The SynCardia TAH-t provides long-term support for larger children and teens who are awaiting a heart transplant. Although the device connects to external equipment via tubes, most patients can go home and do many of their usual activities, such as play, school and even sports.

Care throughout your child's treatment journey

At Children’s Health, our pediatric heart specialists, surgeons, nurses and other experts stay closely involved in your child’s care. Your child has the same care team from diagnosis to VAD implantation, through recovery and preparation for the next step in your child’s treatment.

The care team guides you and your child every step of the way, helping you prepare for the VAD procedure. We discuss with you what to expect before, during and after the procedure, including the next steps. Depending on your child’s specific health needs, they might be preparing for a heart transplant or recovering at home with the support of our outpatient VAD program.

Complete outpatient VAD services for children

Some children who receive a VAD can go home and return to school and other activities. Getting back to a daily routine can boost your child’s overall health – mind, body and spirit – and help their recovery after transplant.

Our outpatient program helps you, your child and your family manage life with a VAD, with services including:

  • Patient and family education. We carefully train you, your child and other family members on how to maintain the VAD and monitor your child’s health.
  • 24/7 dedicated nurse line. Our VAD-trained nurses are available around the clock to answer your questions via phone or text.
  • Community education support. Teachers, school nurses, coaches, first responders, and electric and telephone companies can help your family if an emergency arises. We train these community members about what your child needs and how they can help.

Leaders in pediatric VAD care and research

Our heart experts have been involved in research and clinical trials for pediatric VADs since the first versions started being developed in the early 2000s. Since then, we have implanted more than 110 VADs in children, giving us extensive expertise in selecting the right VAD for your child and managing their care.

Children’s Health is one of ten children’s heart centers nationwide participating in a clinical trial of a new VAD designed for our tiniest patients. The device in the Pumps for Kids, Infants and Neonates (PumpKIN) trial is about the size of a AA battery. Doctors can adjust blood flow as the child grows, so the VAD can support children up to age 10.

We actively participate in the Advanced Cardiac Therapies Improving Outcomes Network (ACTION), and members of our VAD team serve on the ACTION Leadership Committee. By collaborating with other experts in heart failure, we continue to improve our care for children through the use of VADs.

Learn more about our cardiology research and clinical trials.

Meet the Care Team