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J Heart Lung Transplant. 2013 May;32(5):569-73. doi: 10.1016/j.healun.2013.01.1056. Epub 2013 Mar 7.

Antithrombotic strategies in children receiving long-term Berlin Heart EXCOR ventricular assist device therapy.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.



Thromboembolic events while receiving ventricular assist device (VAD) support remain a significant cause of morbidity and mortality despite standard anti-coagulation and anti-platelet therapies. The use of bivalirudin and epoprostenol infusions as an alternate anti-thrombotic (AT) regimen in pediatric VAD patients was reviewed.


This was a retrospective record review of 6 pediatric patients (aged ≤17 years) at 2 institutions treated with bivalirudin and epoprostenol infusions while being supported with the Berlin Heart EXCOR (Berlin Heart GmbH, Berlin, Germany) VAD.


Six patients (age, 0.8-14 years; weight, 6.7-29.7 kg) were treated. Diagnoses included cardiomyopathy in 2 and congenital heart disease in 4. VAD support was left VAD in 2 and bi-VAD in 4, with duration of support of 21 to 155 days. Three patients required extracorporeal membrane oxygenation before VAD support. Bivalirudin/epoprostenol was used after recurrent thromboses on conventional medication in 3 patients, heparin-induced thrombocytopenia in 2, and in 1 patient considered high risk with a prosthetic mitral valve. The bivalirudin dose was titrated to partial thromboplastin time (PTT) of 1.5- to 2-times baseline (0.1-0.8 mg/kg/hour); the epoprostenol dose was 2 to 10 ng/kg/min. Additional anti-platelet agents included acetylsalicylic acid, dipyridamole, and clopidogrel in 5 patients each. No bleeding complications occurred. One patient sustained a cerebrovascular infarct on therapy, with subsequent complete recovery. No other complications occurred. Five patients underwent successful transplantation, and 1 patient died of multisystem organ failure.


This report provides data on estimated safety and efficacy of bivalirudin and epoprostenol as an AT strategy in pediatric patients on extended VAD support. The short drug half-life and predictable AT response facilitated conversion to standard AT regimens at the time of transplantation (heparin-induced thrombocytopenia-negative patients). These agents should be considered for management of pediatric VAD patients when standard regimens fail.

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