Background Patients with acute right ventricular (RV) failure after cardiotomy have a poor prognosis. We evaluated the surgical and long-term outcomes of patients with isolated RV failure that required right ventricular assist device (RVAD) support. Methods Between 1991 and 2002, a total of 30 patients received RVAD support for isolated RV dysfunction. We evaluated survival, duration of mechanical support, post-RVAD hemodynamics, and RV function. Results Right ventricular failure developed in patients after coronary artery bypass surgery alone or combined with valve surgery (12 patients), valvular surgery (5), ascending aortic replacement (6), heart transplantation (3), and pulmonary endarterectomy (4). Mean age was 58 ± 15 years, and 17 (57%) were women. Surgery was emergent in 5 (73%) patients. Centrifugal pumps were used in 21, extra corporeal membrane oxygenation in 8, and as Abiomed pump in 1 patient. Overall, 17 (57%) patients died while receiving assist device support, 3 of sepsis, 2 of stroke, and 12 of inability to wean from the device. We successfully weaned RVAD support in 13 (43%) patients, with a median duration of support of 5 days (range, 2-8 days). Ten survived to hospital discharge. After RVAD removal, mean pulmonary artery pressure was 25.1 ± 6.5 mm Hg, cardiac output was 4.8 ± 2.0 liters, and central venous pressure was 16.5 ± 3.7 mm Hg. Echocardiogram after RVAD removal showed normal RV function in 2 patients and in 11 patients demonstrated improvement. Conclusion After cardiotomy, patients with RV failure who require mechanical support continue to have increased mortality. For patients successfully weaned from the RVAD, residual RV dysfunction is compatible with survival. More liberal use of RV mechanical support may be indicated for patients with acute RV failure.