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Curr Opin Cardiol. 2004 Mar;19(2):148-53.

The role of bridge to transplantation: should LVAD patients be transplanted?

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  • 1Transplant Unit, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, Harefield, Middlesex, UK.



The decrease in useable donor organs means an increasing number of patients are requiring support with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) for survival when their clinical status deteriorates before transplantation. We address whether these patients should be transplanted, if so, with what priority, and when and if they are not transplanted, what are the alternatives?


The perioperative mortality and morbidity of LVAD insertion remains high. Infection and device failure still limit the safety of long periods of bridging and might necessitate earlier transplantation. Early results suggest that the smaller impeller pumps may be associated with a lower incidence of device failure and infection, but with more thromboembolic and hemorrhagic complications. Transplantation of LVAD patients results in survival rates as good as those with conventional transplantation, and the survival benefit is better than for non-LVAD-supported patients. A small number of LVAD patients have shown a significant improvement in myocardial function, sufficient enough to allow explantation of the device. The proportion of these patients has previously been reported to be as low as 5%, but a strategy to maximize recovery has allowed pump removal in approximately two thirds of dilated cardiomyopathy patients. In a recent destination therapy trial, survival in LVAD patients was superior to those on medical therapy, but the frequency of infection, bleeding, and malfunction of the device was higher.


LVAD technology is continuing to evolve quickly, while transplantation is here to stay. The interaction between these two powerful modalities requires continued thoughtful evaluation for maximal benefit to patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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