Clinical utility of echocardiography in the management of implantable ventricular assist devices

J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2000 Aug;13(8):754-63. doi: 10.1067/mje.2000.105009.


Background: The high mortality rate of congestive cardiac failure, the cost and complications of cardiac transplantation, and the waiting list mortality rate resulting from donor organ scarcity have encouraged the development of surgical techniques as bridges to transplantation or as long-term palliative therapy. Implantable left ventricular assist devices are now routinely used as such a bridge, and within the REMATCH Trial, as permanent palliative devices in nontransplant candidates. These are mechanical managements with myriad mechanical complications and pitfalls. Echocardiography has been extensively used in our institution to detect and diagnose previously documented and hitherto unencountered complications of these procedures.

Methods and results: The role of echocardiography in these procedures, including preoperative patient selection, intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography, and postoperative troubleshooting and late follow-up, is discussed. We describe our clinical echocardiographic approach, which has developed over 91 assist-device procedures. The relative frequency and clinical impact of specific anatomic, physiologic, hemodynamic, and mechanical features are described. New techniques such as the Doppler quantification of assist device inflow obstruction are illustrated, as are the device cannula position, the detection of device valve failure, and the parameters related to the remodeling procedure.

Conclusions: Echocardiography in heart failure surgery has proved to be an invaluable tool in the diagnosis and management of mechanical complications. The experience gained in our institution may serve as an aid to new surgical programs treating these critically ill patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Echocardiography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal
  • Equipment Failure
  • Heart Failure / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart Failure / etiology
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Heart-Assist Devices*
  • Humans
  • Monitoring, Intraoperative
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Ventricular Function, Left / physiology