Background: Driveline exit site (DLES) infection is a major complication of ventricular assist devices (VADs). Differences in the sheath material interfacing with exit site tissue appear to affect healing time and infection risk more than site hygiene, but the mechanistic basis for this is not clear.
Methods: Health record data from Utah Artificial Heart Program patients with HeartMate II (HMII) devices implanted from 2008 to 2012 were retrospectively reviewed, with particular attention to interface type, incorporation (healing) time, and infections. Tissue samples from the DLES were collected at the time of VAD removal in a small subset. These samples were examined by routine histology and environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM).
Results: Among 57 patients with sufficient data, 15 had velour interfaces and 42 had silicone. Indications for and duration of support were similar between the groups. The silicone group had shorter incorporation time (45 ±22 vs. 56 ±34 days, P=.17) and fewer DLES infections (20% vs. 1.7%, P=.026, for patient infections and 0.0340 vs. 0.166, P=.16, for infections per patient-year). Tissues from five patients, three with velour, were examined. Velour interfaces demonstrated more hyperkeratosis, hypergranulosis, and dermal inflammation. By ESEM, the silicone driveline tracts appeared relatively smooth and flat, whereas the velour interface samples were irregular with deep fissures and globular material adhering to the surface.
Conclusions: Using the silicone portion of the HMII driveline at the DLES was associated with fewer infections and a trend toward faster healing in this small retrospective series. Whether the intriguing microscopic differences directly account for this needs further study on a larger scale.
Keywords: Driveline exit site; HeartMate II; Infection; SEM; VAD.
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