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

Brit Long, Jennifer Robertson, Alex Koyfman, William Brady

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1562-1570
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Controller
  • Driveline
  • Heart failure
  • Left ventricular assist device bridge
  • Pump
  • Ventricular assist device

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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