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Review article: Biomedical intelligence

Vol. 142 No. 4142 (2012)

Continuous flow left ventricular assist devices: a valid option for heart failure patients

  • Thierry Carrel
  • Lars Englberger
  • Michele Vittorio Martinelli
  • Jukka Takala
  • Claudia Boesch
  • Vilborg Sigurdadottir
  • Erich Gygax
  • Alexander Kadner
  • Paul Mohacsi
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2012;142:w13701


Recent outstanding clinical advances with new mechanical circulatory systems (MCS) have led to additional strategies in the treatment of end stage heart failure (HF). Heart transplantation (HTx) can be postponed and for certain patients even replaced by smaller implantable left ventricular assist devices (LVAD). Mechanical support of the failing left ventricle enables appropriate hemodynamic stabilisation and recovery of secondary organ failure, often seen in these severely ill patients. These new devices may be of great help to bridge patients until a suitable cardiac allograft is available but are also discussed as definitive treatment for patients who do not qualify for transplantation. Main indications for LVAD implantation are bridge to recovery, bridge to transplantation or destination therapy.

LVAD may be an important tool for patients with an expected prolonged period on the waiting list, for instance those with blood group 0 or B, with a body weight over 90 kg and those with potentially reversible secondary organ failure and pulmonary artery hypertension.

However, LVAD implantation means an additional heart operation with inherent peri-operative risks and complications during the waiting period. Finally, cardiac transplantation in patients with prior implantation of a LVAD represents a surgical challenge.

This review summarises the current knowledge about LVAD and continuous flow devices especially since the latter have been increasingly used worldwide in the most recent years. The review is also based on the institutional experience at Berne University Hospital between 2000 and 2012. Apart from short-term devices (Impella, Cardiac Assist, Deltastream and ECMO) which were used in approximately 150 cases, 85 pulsatile long-term LVAD, RVAD or bi-VAD and 44 non-pulsatile LVAD (mainly HeartMateII and HeartWare) were implanted. After an initial learning curve, one-year mortality dropped to 10.4% in the last 58 patients.


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