Background: Bridge to transplantation (BTT) is an accepted option when a donor heart is not available. Extensive clinical study has been done with BTT in the adult population, but comparatively fewer data are available in the pediatric population with regard to pulsatile devices.
Methods: Ten pediatric patients are presented, all of whom underwent BTT or recovery with pneumatic paracorporeal systems. The Berlin Heart bi-ventricular assist device (BVAD) was utilized in 1 patient, the Medos VAD in 4 patients (1 left ventricular assist device [LVAD], 3 BVADs) and the Thoratec VAD in 5 patients (3 BVADs, 2 LVADs). The pediatric population consisted of 3 females and 7 males. Mean age of the population was 7.4 years, weight 25 kg and body surface area (BSA) 0.88 m(2). Etiology for heart failure consisted of 4 viral, 3 congenital and 3 idiopathic cardiomyopathies. Before implant, all patients had evidence of progressive cardiac failure despite inotropic support, and 2 patients had been on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Mean duration on the device was 34.3 days (8 to 107 days).
Results: Two patients suffered stroke and recovered without sequelae. Two patients died of ischemic stroke and 1 of sepsis. Seven patients survived (6 transplanted and 1 weaned) for a survival rate of 70% compared with survival for ECMO as BTT, which was 40% to 50%. All survivors had complications related to bleeding, thromboembolic events and infections.
Conclusions: The Thoratec VAD can be placed in small patients with large hearts that can accommodate the available cannulas. The Berlin Heart and the Medos VAD have a selection of ventricles with small stroke volumes. All 3 systems can be used successfully in the pediatric population as BTT with better survival than with ECMO.