Dying With a Left Ventricular Assist Device as Destination Therapy

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Abstract

Background—

Despite the ability of left ventricular assist device as destination therapy (DT-LVAD) to prolong survival for many patients with advanced heart failure, little is known about the eventual end-of-life care that patients with DT-LVAD receive.

Methods and Results—

All patients undergoing DT-LVAD at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, from January 1, 2007, to September 30, 2014, who subsequently died before July 1, 2015, were included. Information about end-of-life care was obtained from documentation in the electronic medical record. Of 89 patients who died with a DT-LVAD, the median (25th–75th percentile) time from left ventricular assist device implantation to death was 14 (4–31) months. The most common causes of death were multiorgan failure (26%), hemorrhagic stroke (24%), and progressive heart failure (21%). Nearly half (46%) of the patients saw palliative care within 1 month before death; however, only 13 (15%) patients enrolled in hospice a median 11 (range 1–315) days before death. Most patients (78%) died in the hospital, of which 88% died in the intensive care unit. In total, 49 patients had their left ventricular assist device deactivated before death, with all but 3 undergoing deactivation in the hospital. Most patients died within an hour of left ventricular assist device deactivation and all within 26 hours.

Conclusions—

In contrast to the general heart failure population, most patients with DT-LVAD die in the hospital and few use hospice. Further work is needed to understand these differences and to determine whether patients with DT-LVAD are receiving optimal end-of-life care.

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