Infections associated with ventricular assist devices: epidemiology and effect on prognosis after transplantation

Transpl Infect Dis. 2007 Jun;9(2):114-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3062.2006.00185.x.


Background: Ventricular assist devices (VADs) can be used as a bridge to orthotopic heart transplantation (OHT) in people with severe congestive heart failure. Although they can be inserted for an indefinite time period (unlike balloon pumps), they do carry a substantial risk of infection. We studied the epidemiology, microbiology, and consequences of infection in patients with VADs who ultimately had cardiac transplantation.

Methods: Records of VAD-supported patients at our institution between January 1995 and January 2005 were identified by ICD-9 code. Infection was classified as driveline infection, pocket infection, mediastinitis, or VAD endocarditis in increasing severity of illness.

Results: Of 73 patients identified by ICD-9 code, 60 had charts available for review. Of these 60, 72% had a VAD infection: 13 had VAD endocarditis; 3, mediastinitis; 25, pocket infection; and 29, driveline infection. The only association of infection (43 patients, 72%) and demography or underlying disease was that of endocarditis with older age (median age 59 vs. 53 years; P=0.02) and diabetes mellitus (13 patients, 30%; risk ratio 3.4; P=0.01). The duration of VAD support was longer in infected patients (median 125 days) vs. uninfected ones (25 days). Median survival measured from the time of VAD placement (although also true from the time of transplantation) was shorter in patients with VAD endocarditis (120 days) and pocket infection (350 days) vs. no infection (>2400 days) with a significant P=0.017 for endocarditis. Four patients had infections after transplantation that were caused by the same organism as their VAD infection. The predominant pathogens in VAD infection were Staphylococcus and Enterococcus spp.

Conclusion: VAD use as a bridge to cardiac transplantation is associated with a large number of device-related infections. Patients with infected VADs, on average, wait longer for transplantation than patients with uninfected VADs, and patients with VAD endocarditis have a shorter survival than patients with no VAD infection or simple driveline infection.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology*
  • Candidiasis / epidemiology*
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Heart Transplantation / mortality*
  • Heart-Assist Devices
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis