The CardioWest total artificial heart is a pneumatically driven device that totally replaces the failing ventricles. It is currently used as a bridge to heart transplantation in selected centers in the United States under a study by the Food and Drug Administration. Twenty-seven patients have undergone placement of the total artificial heart since 1993 with the intention to bridge to transplantation. Inclusion criteria included candidacy for heart transplantation, cardiac index (Cl) <2.0 L/ min/m2, and maximal inotropic support. The population consisted of 25 men and 2 women of mean ± SD age 46.5 ± 10.3 years, body surface area 2.01 ± 0.17 m2, and duration of implant 52 ± 42 days. Initial diagnosis included ischemic cardiomyopathy (n=10), idiopathic (n=10), viral (n=4), valvular (n=2), and graft failure (n=1). Infectious complications were defined as systemic (evidence of leukocytosis or fever) or local. The population experienced 64 infections (range, 0–9 per patient): 45 systemic and 19 local. Three patients did not experience any infection. Twenty-five patients reached transplantation, and were discharged home for a survival rate of 92.6%. Two patients died during the bridge, one because of mechanical failure, and one because of infection (mediastinitis). Therefore, death attributable to infections occurred in 3.7%. Previous reports of the total artificial heart experience in the late 1980s described death rates as high as 40%. Although infectious complications are common in patients who are bridged to heart transplantation with the total artificial heart, mortality from infections is 10 times less than previously reported. This may be the result of a better strategy for bridging to transplantation that includes patient selection, mobilization, early central line removal, and waiting until all possible infections are resolved before proceeding to transplantation.
Copyright © 1998 by the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs