VAD Research

Heart Failure and Recovery Program

Research with a Cause

The Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has long been an international leader in the use of lifesaving ventricular assist devices (VADs) for children in heart failure. Thanks to Children’s expertise in this area, physicians from the Heart Failure and Recovery Program have ongoing partnership programs with medical device manufacturers who are pursuing new and better technologies for pediatric patients.

Device Manufacturer Collaboration

One VAD that has shown promise at Children’s is the recently FDA approved EXCOR® Pediatric pump by Berlin Heart. The EXCOR Pediatric pump is an external pulsatile, pneumatically driven VAD that can be used to support one or both ventricles. Children’s was one of the trial centers for this device and has implanted the Berlin Heart as a mechanical cardiac support system for critically ill pediatric patients suffering from severe heart failure.

Unlike standard heart-lung machines, the Berlin Heart EXCOR Pediatric can been used as a short-term, mid-term, and long-term support system, assisting failing hearts for several days up to several months. Unlike other VADs, EXCOR Pediatric can be used to support children of all age groups, from newborns to teenagers.

NIH Pumps for Kids, Infants and Neonates Program

PediaFlow® VADPeter Wearden, MD, PhD, a cardiac surgeon and director of Children's Pediatric Cardiopulmonary Support Program is working with a consortium of engineers and industry to develop the PediaFlow® a miniature fully implantable pediatric VAD. The PediaFlow is one of four pediatric VADs being developed as part of the $23.6 million National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Pumps for Kids, Infants, and Neonates (PumpKIN) Program.

The PediaFlow pump is about the size of an AA battery and has a fully magnetically levitated impeller that helps to reduce friction and improve flow without damaging blood cells, making it more biocompatible than other designs. The new device could allow patients to stay on support for longer lengths of time, enabling their hearts to recover before transplant.

Additional Information

Pitt-led Team Gets $5.6 Million Contract to Develop Heart Assist Device for Infants and Toddlers

PediaFlow™ Maglev Ventricular Assist Device: A Prescriptive Design Approach