Background: Mechanical support with a pulsatile pneumatic ventricular assist device (VAD) is a complex rescue procedure performed in children with untreatable cardiogenic shock. Its impact on early and long-term survival after subsequent heart transplantation (HTx) remains to be determined.
Methods: We reviewed retrospectively the course of 95 children (median age, 8 years; range, 8 days-17 years; body weight, 24 kg; range, 3-110 kg) who underwent HTx. Group A, the elective-HTx group, consists of 33 children who were treated as outpatients before transplantation. Group B, the emergency-HTx group, has 44 children who were critically ill and hospitalized before transplantation but without ventricular assist devices, whereas Group C, the VAD-HTx group, consists of 18 children resuscitated and supported with pulsatile pneumatic VADs for a median time of 20 days.
Results: Overall actuarial survival after cardiac transplantation was 86% at 1 month, 82% at 1 year, and 78% at 5 years, without significant differences among the 3 sub-groups. Group A had the best long-term survival rate, 88% at 1 month, 88% at 1 year, and 80% at 5 years. Group B had a survival rate of 88% at 1 month, 82% at 1 year, and 79% at 5 years. Group C had a survival rate of 72% at 1 month, 72% at 1 year, and 72% at 5 years. We found no differences in neurologic outcome, acute cardiac rejection, or transplant failure. The survival rate was significantly better in the children with cardiomyopathy compared with those with congenital heart defects (p = 0.014).
Conclusions: Bridging to HTx with a pulsatile pneumatic VAD is a safe procedure in pediatric patients. After HTx, overall survival of these children is similar to that of patients who were bridged with inotropes or who were awaiting heart transplantation electively.