Pneumatic pulsatile ventricular assist device as a bridge to heart transplantation in pediatric patients

Antonio Amodeo, Gianluca Brancaccio, Guido Michielon, Sergio Filippelli, Zaccaria Ricci, Stefano Morelli, Maria Giulia Gagliardi, Roberta Iacobelli, Giacomo Pongiglione, Roberto M. Di Donato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the remarkable advances with the use of ventricular assist devices (VAD) in adults, pneumatic pulsatile support in children is still limited. We report on our experience in the pediatric population. A retrospective review of 17 consecutive children offered mechanical support with Berlin Heart as a bridge to heart transplant from February 2002 to April 2010 was conducted. The median patient age was 3.9 years (75 days to 13.3 years). The median patient weight was 14.1 kg (2.9-43 kg). Before VAD implantation, all children were managed by multiple intravenous inotropes and mechanical ventilation (14) or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (3). All patients had right ventricular dysfunction. Nine patients required biventricular mechanical support (BVAD), but in all other cases a single left ventricular assist device proved sufficient (47%). The median duration of VAD support was 47 days (1-168 days). The median pre-VAD pulmonary vascular resistance index (Rpi) was 5.7 WU/m2 (3.5 to 14.4 WU/m2). Eleven patients (65%) were successfully bridged to heart transplantation after a median duration of mechanical support of 68 days (6-168 days). Six deaths occurred (35%), three for neurological complications, one for sepsis, and two others for device malfunctioning. Since 2007, the survival rate of our patients has increased from 43% to 80%, and the need for BVAD has decreased from 86% to 30%. In two patients with Rpi >10 WU/m2, unresponsive to pulmonary vasodilatator therapy, Rpi dropped to 2.2 and 2 WU/m2 after 40 and 23 days of BVAD support, respectively. Seven patients (41%) required at least one pump change. Of 11 patients undergoing heart transplant, four developed an extremely elevated (>60%) panel reactive antibody by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, confirmed by Luminex. All of them experienced at least one acute episode of rejection in the first month after heart transplant, needing plasmapheresis. The survival rate after heart transplantation was 100% with a median follow-up of 25.4 months (6 days to 7.7 years). Mechanical support in children with end-stage heart failure is an effective strategy as a bridge to heart transplantation with a reasonable morbidity and mortality. BVAD support may offer an additional means to reverse extremely elevated pulmonary vascular resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1022
Number of pages6
JournalArtificial Organs
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • Circulatory assist devices
  • Heart transplantation
  • Infant
  • Pulsatile
  • Ventricular assist device

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Bioengineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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