The Penn Medicine Advantage 

Penn Medicine provides lifesaving mechanical circulatory support for people with advanced heart failure. The Mechanical Circulatory Support Program offers the most innovative heart support options available today. When you choose Penn for mechanical circulatory support (MCS), you’ll find:

  • Unparalleled expertise: Our team has years of experience in finding the right devices and therapies for each patient based on their unique needs.
  • Collaborative care: Before treatment, every patient undergoes a multidisciplinary evaluation to ensure he or she will benefit from MCS. Our expert team includes cardiovascular surgeons, heart failure cardiologists, cardiac anesthesiologists, social workers, cardiac nurses, nutrition specialists, psychiatrists and technicians. A heart failure team member is on call 24/7.
  • Device optimization: We are the only center in the region that does routine device optimization based on hemodynamic and echocardiographic parameters at three and 12 months after surgery. This approach ensures your ventricular assist device is functioning at the optimal capacity. Our proactive method helps to maximize the ventricular assist device support and result in improvement in patients symptoms. 
  • Clinical innovation: Over the past two decades, Penn has been involved with clinical trials of every major mechanical circulatory support device. We continue to lead groundbreaking studies that translate research into lifesaving therapies. Our surgeons and cardiologists are thought leaders who are involved in the design and advancement of MCS therapy on a national societal and technological development front.
  • Minimally invasive approach: We are the only center in the region and one of a few in the United States that implants devices in certain patients using a minimally invasive approach (lateral thoracotomy). This method improves the patient’s recovery and offers excellent surgery outcomes. Learn more about minimally invasive heart surgery.
  • Treating high risk patients: Given our unparalleled expertise and experience, many high risk patients who were denied at other hospitals are referred to Penn for advanced heart failure therapies. 

What Is Mechanical Circulatory Support? 

Mechanical circulatory support (MCS) includes devices that help your heart function better. MCS has been shown to improve survival and quality of life, and, in certain patients, enhance recovery of the function of the heart. The MCS devices and therapies we offer at Penn include:

  • Ventricular assist devices (VADs): Also called cardiac assist devices, these are sophisticated implanted mechanical pumps that support the heart in pumping blood through weakened heart chambers (mostly the left ventricle). Penn offers the latest generations of all FDA-approved VADs. Learn more about ventricular assist devices (VADs)
  • Temporary total artificial heart (TAH): People in end-stage heart failure may need this device, which temporarily replaces the function of both ventricles. We were one of the first centers in the country certified to implant the only FDA-approved TAH to support people awaiting heart transplantation.
  • ECMO: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is a lifesaving procedure for people experiencing cardiogenic shock or severe respiratory failure. The device temporarily replaces the role of healthy lungs and heart. We are one of the highest-volume centers using ECMO to support people suffering from cardiogenic shock or who have a VAD while awaiting heart transplantation.
  • Intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP): This computer-controlled balloon device inflates and deflates in synchronized way to help a failing heart pump blood to the body.
  • Impella® devices: This temporary VAD is implanted at the cath lab or in the operating room and, like durable VADs, assist the heart in generating blood flow to the body. 

Depending on your needs, our mechanical circulatory support specialists deliver:

  • Short-term support: We support people in cardiogenic shock through the use of temporary ventricular assist devices, such as Impella, IABP and ECMO.
  • Long-term support: TAH and VADs offer lifesaving and life-improving options for many people living with advanced heart failure. We use these to partially or completely replace the function of a failing heart. 

MCS as Heart Failure Treatment

At Penn, we use mechanical circulatory support as:

  • Bridge to transplant: In the United States, many people are living with advanced heart failure. For those who need a heart transplant, too few hearts are available. Heart failure specialists use MCS to support the heart until a donor heart is found. Penn also has deep experience using ECMO to support people waiting for a lung transplant.
  • Bridge to decision: MCS gives heart specialists time to assess patients who are critically ill from heart failure. During this time, we evaluate the patient’s risk factors to determine if they are candidates for a heart transplant once they are stable enough to undergo the operation.
  • Bridge to recovery: Penn is the only center in the region using VADs for recovery when someone is suffering from cardiogenic shock or has heart failure that may be reversible. We implant a device which allows the heart to rest for weeks, months or years. Once the heart is stronger, we remove the device.
  • Destination therapy: For patients who aren’t eligible for a transplant, a VAD can provide lifelong support for a failing heart and improve quality of life and survival. 

In This Section


Extracorporeal membrane oxygen (ECMO) therapy is a lifesaving option for people with complex heart or lung conditions. Experts at Penn Medicine perform more ECMO services than any other center in the region, including mobile ECMO to rescue patients who are too sick to travel.

Ventricular Assist Devices

Our team offers every available ventricular assist device (VAD). At Penn Medicine we match the right device to your unique needs. We use VADs to help people waiting for heart transplant, needing lifelong support or needing short-term support to recover from surgery or heart injury.

Treatment Team

Meet the Ventricular Assist Device Program Team at Penn Heart and Vascular.

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