Preoperative Pectoralis Muscle Quantity and Attenuation by Computed Tomography Are Novel and Powerful Predictors of Mortality After Left Ventricular Assist Device Implantation

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Skeletal muscle mass decreases in end-stage heart failure and is predictive of clinical outcomes in several disease states. Skeletal muscle attenuation and quantity as quantified on preoperative chest computed tomographic scans may be predictive of mortality after continuous flow (CF) left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation.

Methods and Results:

A single-center continuous flow-LVAD database (n=354) was used to identify patients with chest computed tomographies performed in the 3 months before LVAD implantation (n=143). Among patients with computed tomography data available, unilateral pectoralis muscle mass indexed to body surface area and attenuation (approximated by mean Hounsfield units [PHUm]) were measured in each patient with a high intrarater and inter-rater reliability (intraclass correlation coefficients 0.98 and 0.97, respectively). Multivariate Cox regression analyses were performed, censoring at cardiac transplantation, to assess the impact of preoperative pectoralis muscle index and pectoralis muscle mean Hounsfield unit on survival after LVAD implantation. Each unit increase in pectoralis muscle index was associated with a 27% reduction in the hazard of death after LVAD (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.73; 95% confidence interval, 0.58–0.92; P=0.007). Each 5-U increase in pectoralis muscle mean Hounsfield unit was associated with a 22% reduction in the hazard of death after LVAD (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.78; 95% confidence interval, 0.68–0.89; P<0.0001). Pectoralis muscle index and pectoralis muscle mean Hounsfield unit outperformed other traditional measures in the data set, including the HeartMate II risk score.


Pectoralis muscle size and attenuation were powerful predictors of outcomes after LVAD implantation in this data set. This one time, repeatable, internal assessment of patient substrate added valuable prognostic information that was not available on standard preoperative testing.

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