Limited donor heart availability is primarily responsible for the renewal of interest in mechanical left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) as a bridge to transplantation. Donor availability is unlikely to increase significantly in the near future. Experience to date has shown that many patients can be maintained long enough to undergo transplantation, and LVADs may be acceptable as alternate therapy in some who may not be candidates for transplantation. However, criteria for noninvasive evaluation of patients on LVADs have not been developed. In a prospective study using serial echocardiography, we found that aortic valve opening, aortic forward flow, nonlaminar flow in the left ventricle, and mismatch of Doppler derived cardiac output at the pulmonic valve and device output are associated with device malfunction. Echocardiography was diagnostic in five of six patients with clinical instability unrelated to the device. These findings suggest that echocardiography is helpful in the routine evaluation of patients on LVADs.
Copyright © 1998 by the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs