Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization and Polymerase Chain Reaction to Detect Infections in Patients With Left Ventricular Assist Devices

ASAIO J. 2021 May 1;67(5):536-545. doi: 10.1097/MAT.0000000000001260.


The development of driveline infections following left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation remains a major problem. We investigated the impact of fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) combined with 16S rRNA gene sequencing on the diagnosis of driveline infections. LVAD drivelines (n = 61) from 60 consecutive patients were obtained during LVAD explantation and subjected to FISH analysis. 16S rRNA gene polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and sequencing to identify the microorganisms were performed. Results were compared with those of a standard microbiological culture. The reasons for pump removal were heart transplantation (n = 22), weaning (n = 14), pump exchange due to pump thrombosis (n = 12), technical problems (n = 7), or death (n = 5). Of the 60 patients, 26 exhibited clinical signs of a VAD-specific infection, while 34 (with 35 drivelines) showed no clinical signs of infection before explantation. The spectrum of identified pathogens differed between FISH/PCR and conventional microbiological diagnostics. In general, the bacterial spectrum was more diverse in FISH/PCR as compared with conventional microbiology, which more often showed only typical skin flora (coagulase-negative staphylococci and Corynebacteriaceae). In addition to identifying the species, FISH/PCR provided information about the spatial distribution and invasiveness of the microorganisms. Cultures usually represent the only source of microbiological information for clinicians and often prove to be unsatisfactory in complex LVAD cases. FISH/PCR not only identified a greater number and variety of microorganisms than standard culture did, but it also provided information about the number, localization, and biofilm state of the pathogens, making it a useful tool for diagnosing the specific cause of LVAD driveline infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Heart-Assist Devices / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / diagnosis*