Mechanical circulatory support with durable continuous-flow ventricular assist devices has become an important therapeutic management strategy for patients with advanced heart failure. As more patients have received these devices and the duration of support per patient has increased, the postimplantation complications have become more apparent, and the need for approaches to manage these complications has become more compelling. Continuous-flow ventricular assist devices, including axial-flow and centrifugal-flow pumps, are the most commonly used mechanical circulatory support devices. Continuous-flow ventricular assist devices and the native heart have a constant physiological interplay dependent on pump speed that affects pressure-flow relationships and patient hemodynamics. A major postimplantation complication is cerebrovascular vascular accidents. The causes of cerebrovascular vascular accidents in ventricular assist device recipients may be related to hypertension, thromboembolic events, bleeding from anticoagulation, or some combination of these. The most readily identifiable and preventable cause is hypertension. Hypertension management in these patients has been hampered by the fact that it is difficult to accurately measure blood pressure because these ventricular assist devices have continuous flow and are often not pulsatile. Mean arterial pressures have to be identified by Doppler or oscillometric cuff and treated. Although guidelines for hypertension management after ventricular assist device implantation are based largely on expert consensus and conventional wisdom, the mainstay of treatment for hypertension includes guideline-directed medical therapy for heart failure with reduced ejection fraction because this may reduce adverse effects associated with hypertension and increase the likelihood of favorable ventricular remodeling. The use of systemic anticoagulation in ventricular assist device recipients may at a given blood pressure increase the risk of stroke.
Keywords: AHA Scientific Statements; blood pressure; heart failure; heart-assist devices; hypertension.