Pediatric Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Research

UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh is a global leader in using lifesaving ventricular assist devices (VADs) for pediatric heart failure.

Thanks to this expertise, doctors from the Heart Failure Program partner with device manufacturers to pursue new and better technologies.

Heart Assist Device Research with a Cause

One VAD that has shown promise is the recently FDA approved EXCOR® Pediatric pump by Berlin Heart. Children’s was one of the trial centers for this device.

The external pulsatile, air-driven VAD can support one or both ventricles. Our experts have implanted the Berlin Heart pump as a support system for critically ill children with severe heart failure.

Unlike standard heart-lung machines, the EXCOR pump can:

  • Serve as a short-term, mid-term, and long-term mechanical heart support system.
  • Assist children with failing hearts for a few days to many months.
  • Support children of all age groups — from newborns to teens.

Heart Pumps for Kids, Infants, and Neonates

PediaFlow® VADPeter Wearden, MD — a heart surgeon at Children's — is working with engineers to design the PediaFlow®, a tiny, fully implantable pediatric VAD. It could allow children to stay on support longer, helping their hearts heal before transplant.

The new PediaFlow pump:

  • Is about the size of an AA battery.
  • Has a fully magnetically levitated (maglev) pump that helps reduce friction and improves flow without damaging blood cells.
  • Is more biocompatible compared to other designs.

The PediaFlow is one of four VADs we're designing at Children's. This research is part of the $23.6 million National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Pumps for Kids, Infants, and Neonates (PumpKIN) Program.

Learn more about our VAD research