Background: Driveline infection limits the event-free survival of patients with a left ventricular assist device. With the evolving prospect of improved left ventricular assist devices in the bridge-to-transplantation or recovery setting, we sought to reduce the risk of driveline complications.
Methods: As part of the Oxford Jarvik 2000 research program, we developed a carbon and then titanium pedestal to transmit the electric wires through the skin. In a sheep model, the pedestal was brought out through the skin of the shoulder (n = 10) or the scalp (n = 9) with underlying fixation to the skull. Exit wounds were carefully inspected for healing and infection. Power cable durability tests were performed in 6 additional animals without an implanted pump.
Results: The cumulative observation period was 1,491 days (mean time, 78 days; range, 14 days to 198 days). There was no difference in observation period between the two groups. Infection (n = 2) and impaired healing (n = 5) occurred in the mobile tissues at the shoulder. Skull-mounted pedestals were free from infection or healing problems. The electric cables were not interrupted by repeated neck flexion (cumulative observation period, 588 days). The carbon pedestal was replaced by a titanium pedestal when the head butting of the sheep fractured the carbon.
Conclusions: The combination of rigid fixation and highly vascular scalp skin reduces the risk of percutaneous driveline infection and may solve an important outstanding problem in use of left ventricular assist devices.