Right ventricular afterload sensitivity dramatically increases after left ventricular assist device implantation: A multi-center hemodynamic analysis

J Heart Lung Transplant. 2016 Jul;35(7):868-76. doi: 10.1016/j.healun.2016.01.1225. Epub 2016 Feb 9.


Background: Right ventricular (RV) failure is a source of morbidity and mortality after left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation. In this study we sought to define hemodynamic changes in afterload and RV adaptation to afterload both early after implantation and with prolonged LVAD support.

Methods: We reviewed right heart catheterization (RHC) data from participants who underwent continuous-flow LVAD implantation at our institutions (n = 244), excluding those on inotropic or vasopressor agents, pulmonary vasodilators or additional mechanical support at any RHC assessment. Hemodynamic data were assessed at 5 time intervals: (1) pre-LVAD (within 6 months); (2) early post-LVAD (0 to 6 months); (3) 7 to 12 months; (4) 13 to 18 months; and (5) very late post-LVAD (18 to 36 months).

Results: Sixty participants met the inclusion criteria. All measures of right ventricular load (effective arterial elastance, pulmonary vascular compliance and pulmonary vascular resistance) improved between the pre- and early post-LVAD time periods. Despite decreasing load and pulmonary artery wedge pressure (PAWP), RAP remained unchanged and the RAP:PAWP ratio worsened early post-LVAD (0.44 [0.38, 0.63] vs 0.77 [0.59, 1.0], p < 0.001), suggesting a worsening of RV adaptation to load. With continued LVAD support, both RV load and RAP:PAWP decreased in a steep, linear and dependent manner.

Conclusions: Despite reducing RV load, LVAD implantation leads to worsened RV adaptation. With continued LVAD support, both RV afterload and RV adaptation improve, and their relationship remains constant over time post-LVAD. These findings suggest the RV afterload sensitivity increases after LVAD implantation, which has major clinical implications for patients struggling with RV failure.

Keywords: LVAD; pulmonary effective arterial elastance; pulmonary vascular compliance; right ventricular adapation; right ventricular load.

MeSH terms

  • Heart Failure
  • Heart-Assist Devices
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right*