Incidence and clinical management of life-threatening left ventricular assist device failure

E. J. Birks, P. D. Tansley, M. H. Yacoub, C. T. Bowles, M. Hipkin, J. Hardy, N. R. Banner, A. Khaghani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Mechanical device failure can be life-threatening and is becoming increasingly important as left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) are being used for longer periods as a bridge to transplantation (period lengthening due to donor shortage) or recovery, or as destination therapy. However, its incidence and clinical management have not been widely studied. We investigated the incidence and management of major device failure for a total of 102 Thoratec/TCI HeartMate and Thoratec PVAD devices implanted at our institution since 1995. The cumulative probability of device failure was 6%, 12%, 27% and 64% at 6 months, 1 year, 18 months and 2 years, respectively. Major failure occurred in 8 (7.8%) patients. Four patients presented as emergency cases with vented electric (VE) failure, and 3, with failure due to a seized motor, were supported on the pneumatic driver to explantation, transplantation or device change. Another patient had a ruptured pump diaphragm and was maintained for 12 hours, but died of a Type B aortic dissection. Four patients underwent elective device change, including 2 of a VE pump, 1 with inlet valve regurgitation and fractured power cable at 414 days, and 1 with inlet valve regurgitation at 656 days, all of whom underwent transplantation or explantation. One patient with VE failure was maintained on the pneumatic driver, then underwent Thoratec paracorporeal ventricular assist device (PVAD) implantation and was transplanted. One Thoratec PVAD patient developed LVAD thrombus, underwent pump replacement, and was transplanted. A further patient on the implantable pneumatic (IP) HeartMate developed a pneumoperitoneum due to a leak at the junction of the pneumatic driveline, which was repaired by inserting a new driveline, and underwent heart/kidney transplantation. Life-threatening mechanical device failure is not uncommon and increases with time, but can be managed successfully in most patients. Improvements in design and manufacture should further enhance outcome with LVADs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)964-969
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Transplantation


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