Background: Despite advances in heart transplantation and mechanical circulatory support, mortality among transplant candidates remains high. Better ways are needed to ensure the survival of transplant candidates both inside and outside the hospital.
Methods: In a prospective, multicenter clinical trial conducted at 24 centers in the United States, 280 transplant candidates (232 men, 48 women; median age, 55 years; range, 11-72 years) unresponsive to inotropic drugs, intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation, or both, were treated with the HeartMate Vented Electric Left Ventricular Assist System (VE LVAS). A cohort of 48 patients (40 men, 8 women; median age, 50 years; range, 21-67 years) not supported with an LVAS served as a historical control group. Outcomes were measured in terms of laboratory data (hemodynamic, hematologic, and biochemical), adverse events, New York Heart Association functional class, and survival.
Results: The VE LVAS-treated and non-VE LVAS-treated (control) groups were similar in terms of age, sex, and distribution of patients by diagnosis (ischemic cardiomyopathy, idiopathic cardiomyopathy, and subacute myocardial infarction). VE LVAS support lasted an average of 112 days (range, < 1-691 days), with 54 patients supported for > 180 days. Mean VE LVAS flow (expressed as pump index) throughout support was 2.8 L x min(-1) x m(-2). Median total bilirubin values decreased from 1.2 mg/dL at baseline to 0.7 mg/dL (P =.0001); median creatinine values decreased from 1.5 mg/dL at baseline to 1.1 mg/dL (P =.0001). VE LVAS-related adverse events included bleeding in 31 patients (11%), infection in 113 (40%), neurologic dysfunction in 14 (5%), and thromboembolic events in 17 (6%). A total of 160 (58%) patients were enrolled in a hospital release program. Twenty-nine percent of the VE LVAS-treated patients (82/280) died before receiving a transplant, compared with 67% of controls (32/48) (P <.001). Conversely, 71% of the VE LVAS-treated patients (198/280) survived: 67% (188/280) ultimately received a heart transplant, and 4% (10/280) had the device removed electively. One-year post-transplant survival of VE LVAS-treated patients was significantly better than that of controls (84% [158/188] vs 63% [10/16]; log rank analysis P =.0197).
Conclusion: The HeartMate VE LVAS provides adequate hemodynamic support, has an acceptably low incidence of adverse effects, and improves survival in heart transplant candidates both inside and outside the hospital. The studies of the HeartMate LVAS (both pneumatic and electric) for Food and Drug Administration approval are the only studies with a valid control group to show a survival benefit for cardiac transplantation.