Risk of infections with long-term left ventricular assist device support


The average life expectancy post-left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation has significantly increased in recent years. Impaired cellular immunity post-LVAD implantation has been suggested. It is not clear if a prolonged duration of LVAD support will lead to an increase in infections and possibly cause opportunistic infections, as seen in immunocompromised patients.

Methods:We retrospectively reviewed all the patients who underwent new continuous-flow (C-F) LVAD implantation between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2014, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Patients were followed until heart transplant, LVAD explantation, death, or December 31, 2017. We defined LVAD infections as per the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT) definition: VAD-specific, VAD-related, and non-VAD infections. The primary outcome was to calculate the incidence of LVAD infections per 1000 days of LVAD support. Secondary outcomes were to assess the cause of death and the effect of bloodstream infections on LVAD thrombosis, stroke, and death.

Results:During the study period, a total of 94 patients underwent a C-F LVAD implantation. Five patients were lost in follow-up; 89 patients were included in the study. The mean age at LVAD implantation was 54 (SD+15) years. Out of 89 patients, 67 (75%) were men, and 53/89 (71%) received LVAD as destination therapy (DT). At the time of LVAD implantation, 34/89 (38%) patients had ITERMACS (interagency registry for mechanically assisted circulatory support) score 1 (cardiogenic shock). The median duration of LVAD support was 387+493 days, with an interquartile range of 140 to 1083 days. The incidence rate of infections post-LVAD implantation decreased from 3.2 /1000 LVAD days (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.54-4.03) during the first year of LVAD support to 0.78/1000 LVAD days (95% CI, 0.38-1.65) during the following third year of LVAD support. Similarly, the incidence of VAD-specific infections in the first year post-LVAD implantation versus the third-year post LVAD implantation decreased from 0.83/1000 LVAD days (95% CI, 0.53-1.30) to 0.33/1000 LVAD days (95% CI, 0.10-1.04). On univariate survival analysis, an increased risk of death was associated with a one-year increase in age at LVAD implantation (hazard ratio (HR) 1.05 (95% CI, 1.01-1.09), p=0.01), the presence of infection within 30 days before LVAD implantation (HR 2.44 (95% CI, 1.09-5.48), p=0.03), underlying ischemic cardiomyopathy (HR 2.96 (95% CI, 1.28-6.80), p=0.01), and lower ITERMACS profile HR 3.64 (95% CI, 1.09-12.13, p=0.04). Bloodstream infections (BSIs) were not associated with an increased risk of death (HR 1.63 (95% CI, 0.56-4.80, p=0.37). Univariate survival analysis for poor outcomes (LVAD thrombosis, stroke, or death) showed BSIs increased the risk of having a poor outcome (HR 2.39 (95% CI, 1.02-5.57), p=0.04).

Conclusions:The incidence rate of post-LVAD infections decreased significantly over time. LVAD implantation may not be contributing to immune suppression as previously suggested. In our study, BSIs were found to have a significantly increased hazard ratio for a poor outcome post-LVAD implantation.

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