You'll likely have follow-up appointments with your doctor and other members of your treatment team once a week for the first month after your procedure to check how well your ventricular assist device (VAD) is working and to check for complications.
Follow-up appointments may include a physical examination, several tests and an evaluation of the device's function. You'll generally need follow-up appointments less frequently over a period of time, as you continue to recover. Appointments may take place in clinics staffed by a medical team trained in ventricular assist devices.
Your doctor may also recommend that you participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program. Cardiac rehabilitation is a customized program of exercise and education, designed to help you improve your health and recover from a heart attack, other forms of heart disease or surgery to treat heart disease. Cardiac rehabilitation staff may help you incorporate healthy lifestyle changes — such as exercise, a heart-healthy diet and stress management — into your life.
Depending on your condition, you may be able to return to many of your daily life activities, such as returning to work, driving, being sexually active, participating in hobbies and exercising. Your doctor can discuss with you what activities are appropriate for you.
Living with a VAD can seem stressful. You may worry that your VAD will stop working or that you'll get an infection. If you're a candidate for a heart transplant, you may worry that your VAD won't keep working long enough for you to receive a donor heart.
Talk to your treatment team, family and friends if you feel stressed, worried or depressed. It may help to discuss how you're feeling. You may want to consider joining a support group of people who have VADs or talking with a professional counselor.
VADs and heart transplants
If you have a VAD implanted to help your heart pump blood while you wait for a heart transplant, you'll remain in close contact with your doctor and transplant center while you remain on the waiting list. It's likely you won't be allowed to travel farther than two hours' driving time of your hospital in case a donor heart becomes available.