Gastrointestinal Bleeding With Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVAD): Locating the Leak and Identifying Outcomes

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Background and Goals:

Gastrointestinal bleeding (GIB) is a significant complication following left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation. We evaluated the incidence, predictors, endoscopic findings, and outcomes of GIB in LVAD recipients.


Retrospective review of 205 adult patients undergoing HeartMate II LVAD implantation from January 2012 to June 2016. Patients were reviewed and separated into GIB (n=57; 28%) and non-GIB (n=148; 72%) groups.


Median time to GIB was 55 (range, 3 to 730) days. The GIB group patients were older (61±12 vs. 56±13, P=0.0042), more often underwent concomitant tricuspid valve (TV) repair (16% vs. 4%, P=0.007), and a higher percentage were assigned for destination therapy (75% vs. 55%, P=0.01). Angioectasia (33%) was the most common identified cause of GIB. Median time to endoscopic intervention was 1 day. The total number of hospital readmissions after LVAD was higher in the GIB group (median of 5 vs. 3, P=0.001), as was the total number of blood products transfused after LVAD (29 vs. 13, P≤0.0001). GIB was associated with an increased risk of death (hazard ratio, 1.94; 95% confidence interval, 1.16-3.25; P=0.01) and the mortality rate during hospitalization for GIB was 11% (P=0.0004). Receiving a heart transplant was associated with a decreased hazard of death (hazard ratio, 0.40; 95% confidence interval, 0.19-0.85; P=0.016).


Older age and destination therapy as implant strategy were found to be associated with an increased risk of GIB, consistent with previous studies. A unique finding in our study is the association of TV repair with a higher incidence of GIB. Further studies are needed to investigate possible mechanisms by which TV repair increases the incidence of GIB.

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