UI Hospitals and Clinics

Mechanical Circulatory Support Program

Mechanical Circulatory Support (MCS) is a treatment for patients whose heart, lungs, or blood system does not work properly on its own. Our doctors can use machines and devices to help patients with these problems live a more normal life.

The MCS Program at UI Hospitals and Clinics is the only program of its kind in Iowa. Our specialists offer cutting edge treatments to save or extend the lives of patients with advanced heart failure, some of whom are waiting for a heart transplant. We focus on the total well-being of each patient and are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Treatments include heart support devices such as a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) or a Total Artificial Heart (TAH). A VAD or heart pump is a mechanical device that is used to take over pumping for one or both ventricles or chambers of the heart. A TAH replaces both ventricles of the heart. A heart pump may be needed when heart failure reaches a point where medications and other treatments are no longer working.

Our MCS Program has a long history of success for patients. VAD has mostly been used to treat critically ill patients with advanced heart failure who are waiting for a heart transplant. However, VAD is also capable of extending and improving the quality of life of patients who are not eligible for heart transplant. In July 2010, we received national certification for our VAD Program. Before certification, heart pump treatment could only be offered to patients waiting for a heart transplant. Now, this treatment can be offered to those patients who are not heart transplant candidates. Most people who receive a heart pump return to a more active life soon after surgery.

Heart pumps may be used for the following:

  • Bridge to transplant - a heart pump can support a patient with end-stage heart failure who is waiting for a heart transplant.
  • Bridge to recovery - a heart pump can support a patient with heart failure that has the potential to be reversed. Once the heart has recovered enough, the heart pump may be removed.
  • Destination therapy - a heart pump can support a patient with end-stage heart failure who is not a candidate for a heart transplant.

Our specialists have participated in clinical research that has resulted in the currently approved therapies. We continue to participate in clinical studies to determine how to combine current medications and to look for new treatment options. You may be eligible to participate in a trial of new therapies. Learn more about our mechanical circulatory support clinical trials.


News and Patient Information

Key Milestones

  • 1994: Start of VAD Program at UIHC. Team includes surgeons, cardiologists, nurse practitioners, nurses, and social workers.
  • 2010: MCS Program receives national certification for VAD Program. This allows us to offer VAD for destination therapy.
  • 2011: UIHC is the first hospital in Iowa to implant a  temporary total artificial heart.


Care Team

Physician, Internal Medicine

Physician, Surgery