Background: Current ventricular assist devices (VADs) in the United States are designed primarily for adult use. Data on VADs as a bridge to transplantation in children are limited.
Methods and results: A multi-institutional, prospectively maintained database of outcomes in children after listing for heart transplantation (n=2375) was used to analyze outcomes of VAD patients (n=99, 4%) listed between January 1993 and December 2003. Median age at VAD implantation was 13.3 years (range, 2 days to 17.9 years); diagnoses were cardiomyopathy (78%) and congenital heart disease (22%). Mean duration of support was 57 days (range, 1 to 465 days). Seventy-three percent were supported with a long-term device, with 39% requiring biventricular support. Seventy-seven patients (77%) survived to transplantation, 5 patients were successfully weaned from support and recovered, and 17 patients (17%) died on support. In the recent era (2000 to 2003), successful bridge to transplantation with VAD was achieved in 86% of patients. Peak hazard for death while waiting was the first 2 weeks after VAD placement. Risk factors for death while awaiting a transplant included earlier era of implantation (P=0.05), female gender (P=0.02), and congenital disease diagnosis (P=0.05). There was no difference in 5-year survival after transplantation for patients on VAD at time of transplantation as compared with those not requiring VAD.
Conclusions: VAD support in children successfully bridged 77% of patients to transplantation, with posttransplantation outcomes comparable to those not requiring VAD. These encouraging results emphasize the need to further understand patient selection and to delineate the impact of VAD technology for children.