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Virtua Health Performs First LVAD Implantation

July 01, 2024 - Cardiovascular surgeons now certified to perform highly advanced mechanical support procedure

July 01, 2024

The advanced heart failure team at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden has successfully performed the health system’s first left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation. LVADs are intended to help maintain heart function for people who have reached end-stage heart failure. The surgery occurred in May 2024, and the patient is recovering nicely.

Virtua Health, the largest health system in southern New Jersey, received certification to perform LVAD surgery in early 2024.

“The LVAD can support patients for the long term or serve as a bridge for individuals who may later be a candidate for a heart transplant,” said Tolulope Agunbiade, MD, medical director of Virtua’s Advanced Heart Failure Center. “Our goal is to continually expand our capabilities and capacity so that South Jersey residents can receive highly specialized care close to home.”

The need for specialized cardiac care is greater than ever, as more than 6 million Americans live with heart failure. Managing heart failure requires medications, a disciplined diet, exercise, and tracking one’s weight and fluid retention. For some patients, however, medical management is not enough and more advanced therapies are required to help prolong survival. For those who are not eligible for a heart transplant, a LVAD is a mechanical pump that has been shown to help patients live longer and can help replace the function of the failing heart. The LVAD is a small mechanical pump that is implanted inside the chest and attached to the left ventricle which is the main pumping chamber in the heart.

“The LVAD assists the heart’s function and takes over the work of the left ventricle, pumping blood to the vital organs, just like the normal heart would,” said cardiac surgeon Dan Choi, MD, vice president of clinical operations for Virtua’s cardiovascular service line.

Virtua maintains five community-based heart failure program sites in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties, in addition to the hospital-based Camden location. The LVAD team includes board-certified heart failure specialists, surgeons, advanced practice nurses, nurse coordinators, a dedicated social worker, and a palliative care specialist, among others.

South Jersey residents who have advanced heart failure can now be evaluated for and receive this life-prolonging therapy right here in South Jersey. “At Virtua, we are committed to a high standard of service by meeting rigorous standards to support better outcomes for our patient population,” said Theresa Rowe-Ruffin, MSN, CRNP, administrative director for advanced heart failure at Virtua.

Dr. Agunbiade is among the physicians featured in Virtua’s multimedia campaign promoting the not-for-profit health system’s clinical offerings. In a video interview, Dr. Agunbiade explains: “Our goal is to offer more advanced therapies…Here at Virtua, we focus on heart function, not heart failure.”

Adds Dr Choi: “Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is well-regarded in the region for all things cardiology. We want to build upon that reputation, continue to earn people’s trust, and guide them to good health.”

To schedule an appointment or learn more about available treatment options, call 856-325-4261 or visit