The emergency management of ventricular assist devices

Jennifer Robertson, Brit Long, Alex Koyfman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background Heart failure is a common condition in the United States. When medical therapy fails, ventricular device (LVAD) therapy may be required. With increasing use of LVADs, emergency physicians should understand how to manage problems that may arise with these devices. Objective The objective of this review is to familiarize physicians with LVAD components and LVAD physiology, and discuss the evaluation and management of LVAD complications. Discussion The LVAD contains numerous components, but the most important include the pump, inflow and outflow cannulas, and driveline. Initial assessment of perfusion is vital, as hemodynamic instability may be due to decreased preload, increased afterload, mechanical failure, dysrhythmias, infection, or bleeding. Assessment of hemodynamic status is required, and utilization of Doppler for measurement of mean arterial pressure is warranted. This review provides recommendations for the evaluation and management of the LVAD patient in heart failure, the unstable patient with decreased preload, the unstable patient with increased afterload, thrombosis of the LVAD, mechanical failure, dysrhythmias and cardiac arrest, infections and sepsis, right ventricular failure, aortic insufficiency, and bleeding. Patients with LVAD require consultation with the LVAD coordinator and cardiothoracic surgeon. By understanding these aspects, physicians can provide optimal management for these complicated patients. Conclusion With an increasing number of LVADs, emergency physicians should expect to see patients with complications directly or indirectly related to LVADs. This review provides physicians with an extensive review of LVAD physiology and the evaluation and management of potential complications related to the device.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1294-1301
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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