Left Ventricular Assist Device Weaning: Hemodynamic Response and Relationship to Stroke Volume and Rate Reduction Protocols

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Clinical evidence of myocardial recovery in a small cohort of patients supported with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) has been reported. Development of an optimal LVAD weaning protocol is needed for these patients to sustain recovery after device explant. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that LVAD stroke volume reduction produces a steady-state mechanical reloading of left ventricular (LV) pressures and volumes compared with LVAD rate reduction that results in transient mechanical reloading of the heart due to beat-to-beat variation in LV pressures and volumes. The relationship of LVAD flow to LVAD stroke volume and systolic interval over a range of LVAD rates (60, 80, 100, 120, and 140 bpm) was validated in a mock circulatory flow loop. In six acute experiments, calves were implanted with a pneumatic paracorporeal LVAD (PVAD, Thoratec, Pleasanton, CA). The PVAD was operated asynchronously in the auto volume mode (full decompression) for 30 minutes to establish a baseline control condition. The calf hearts were then mechanically reloaded by LVAD rate reduction (80, 60, and 40 bpm) or LVAD stroke volume reduction (100, 120, and 140 bpm) protocols consisting of 30 minutes of support at each LVAD beat rate. The order of weaning protocols was randomized with a 30-minute recovery period (LVAD volume mode to fully decompress heart allowing it to rest) between protocols to enable return to baseline control state. Aortic pressure and flow, LV pressure and volume, pulmonary artery flow, and LVAD flow waveforms were recorded for each test condition. The LVAD stroke volume reduction protocol produced steady-state mechanical reloading compared with VAD rate reduction that resulted in transient LV mechanical reloading. This distinction is due to differences in their temporal relationships between LVAD and LV filling and emptying cycles. The acute hemodynamic benefit of LVAD stroke volume reduction was greater reduction in LV end-diastolic pressure and increase in LV segmental shortening than LVAD rate reduction. The long-term effects of steady-state and transient LV mechanical reloading on myocardial structure and function toward achieving sustained myocardial recovery warrant further investigation.

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