The Achilles’ heel of left ventricular assist device therapy: right ventricle

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Many patients suffer from either persistent right ventricular failure (RVF) at the time of left ventricular assist device (LVAD) or have ongoing symptoms consistent with RVF during chronic mechanical circulatory support. The lack of long-term right ventricular assist devices (RVADs) has limited the impact that mechanical circulatory support can provide to patients with biventricular failure. We aim to review the entire spectrum of RVF in patients receiving LVADs and reflect on why this entity remains the Achilles’ heel of LVAD therapy.

Recent findings

In the early postoperative period, LVAD implantation reduces right ventricle (RV) afterload, but RV dysfunction may be exacerbated secondary to increased venous return. With prolonged therapy, the decreased RV afterload leads to improved RV contractile function. Bayesian statistical models outperform previously published preoperative risk scores by considering inter-relationships and conditional probabilities amongst independent variables. Various echocardiographic parameters and the pulmonary artery pulsatility index have shown promise in predicting post-LVAD RVF. Recent publications have delineated the emergence of ‘delayed’ RVF. Several devices are currently being investigated for use as RVADs.

Summary

Post-LVAD RVF depends on the RV's ability to adapt to acute hemodynamic changes imposed by the LVAD. Management options are limited due to the lack of an easily implantable, chronic-use RVAD.

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