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Left ventricular assist devices and their complications: A review for emergency clinicians

Published:April 29, 2019DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajem.2019.04.050

      Abstract

      Introduction

      End stage heart failure is associated with high mortality. However, recent developments such as the ventricular assist device (VAD) have improved patient outcomes, with left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) most commonly implanted.

      Objective

      This narrative review evaluates LVAD epidemiology, indications, normal function and components, and the assessment and management of complications in the emergency department (ED).

      Discussion

      The LVAD is a life-saving device in patients with severe heart failure. While first generation devices provided pulsatile flow, current LVAD devices produce continuous flow. Normal components include the pump, inflow and outflow cannulas, driveline, and external controller. Complications related to the LVAD can be divided into those that are LVAD-specific and LVAD-associated, and many of these complications can result in severe patient morbidity and mortality. LVAD-specific complications include device malfunction/failure, pump thrombosis, and suction event, while LVAD-associated complications include bleeding, cerebrovascular event, infection, right ventricular failure, dysrhythmia, and aortic regurgitation. Assessment of LVAD function, patient perfusion, and mean arterial pressure is needed upon presentation. Electrocardiogram and bedside ultrasound are key evaluations in the ED. LVAD evaluation and management require a team-based approach, and consultation with the LVAD specialist is recommended.

      Conclusion

      Emergency clinician knowledge of LVAD function, components, and complications is integral in optimizing care of these patients.

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