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J Heart Lung Transplant. 2005 Feb;24(2):200-4.

Heart transplant and left ventricular assist device costs.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.



With the increasing clinical success of left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), physicians need to measure device cost efficacy to determine the societal value of this technology. Today's large clinical volume allows comparison of the costs of this innovation as compared with orthotopic heart transplant (OHT).


We evaluated hospital cost and reimbursement for patients who were discharged after LVAD implantation and returned to the hospital for OHT. To control for patient-specific variables, LVAD therapy and OHT therapy were compared in the same patient; that is, only those patients who received an LVAD were discharged, and returned for OHT were studied. Length of stay (LOS), re-admissions and outpatient services were analyzed, including their respective total actual hospital cost (TAHC) and net revenue (NR). Time periods analyzed were the same for LVAD and OHT.


From the LVAD population at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, 36 patients were discharged following HeartMate vented electric (VE) implantation and re-admitted for OHT between December 1996 and June 2000. Mean pre-LVAD implantation LOS was 21.3 +/- 24.1 days. Post-LVAD LOS was 36.8 +/- 22.2 days vs 18.2 +/- 12.2 days post-OHT (p < 0.001). Mean length of LVAD support was 123.4 +/- 77.7 days. Overall total costs for LVADs exceeded that of OHT, whereas revenue was relatively lower. TAHC post-LVAD averaged $197,957 +/- 77,291, whereas TAHC post-OHT averaged $151,646 +/-53,909 (p = 0.005). NR averaged $144,756 +/- 96,656 post-LVAD vs $178,562 +/- 68,571 post-OHT (p = 0.09). LVAD patients had more re-admissions compared with OHT: 1.2/123 days (+/- 1.7) vs 0.3/123 days (+/- 0.6), respectively (p = 0.005). The average LOS during a re-admission was similar between the 2 groups (LVAD 5.6 days [+/- 10.6] vs OHT 9.6 days [+/- 8.2]; p = 0.18). OHT was associated with a significantly greater number of outpatient services compared with LVAD (9.7 [+/- 6.1] vs 3.0 [+/- 4.7]; p < 0.001). In contrast to OHT, revenues did not match the costs of LVAD therapy.


LVAD implantation is associated with longer LOS and higher cost for initial hospitalization compared with OHT. LVAD patients have higher re-admission rates compared with OHT but similar costs and LOS. OHT is associated with a greater number of outpatient services. Reimbursements for LVAD therapy are relatively low, resulting in significant lost revenue. If LVAD therapy is to become a viable alternative, improvements in both cost-effectiveness and reimbursement will be necessary.

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