Treatment of gastrointestinal bleeding in left ventricular assist devices: A comprehensive review

World J Gastroenterol. 2020 May 28;26(20):2550-2558. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v26.i20.2550.


Left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) are increasingly become common as life prolonging therapy in patients with advanced heart failure. Current devices are now used as definitive treatment in some patients given the improved durability of continuous flow pumps. Unfortunately, continuous flow LVADs are fraught with complications such as gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding that are primarily attributed to the formation of arteriovenous malformations. With frequent GI bleeding, antiplatelet and anticoagulation therapies are usually discontinued increasing the risk of life-threatening events. Small bowel bleeds account for 15% as the source and patients often undergo multiple endoscopic procedures. Treatment strategies include resuscitative measures and endoscopic therapies. Medical treatment is with octreotide. Novel treatment options include thalidomide, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors/angiotensin II receptor blockers, estrogen-based hormonal therapies, doxycycline, desmopressin and bevacizumab. Current research has explored the mechanism of frequent GI bleeds in this population, including destruction of von Willebrand factor, upregulation of tissue factor, vascular endothelial growth factor, tumor necrosis factor-α, tumor growth factor-β, and angiopoetin-2, and downregulation of angiopoetin-1. In addition, healthcare resource utilization is only increasing in this patient population with higher admissions, readmissions, blood product utilization, and endoscopy. While some of the novel endoscopic and medical therapies for LVAD bleeds are still in their development stages, these tools will yet be crucial as the number of LVAD placements will likely only increase in the coming years.

Keywords: Bevacizumab; Double balloon enteroscopy; Gastrointestinal bleeding; Left ventricular assist device; Octreotide; Push enteroscopy; Video capsule endoscopy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Arteriovenous Malformations / etiology
  • Arteriovenous Malformations / therapy*
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal / methods
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / therapy*
  • Heart Failure / surgery
  • Heart-Assist Devices / adverse effects*
  • Humans


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Gastrointestinal Agents