Continuous flow left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) are used with good outcome. However, acute intravascular hemolysis due to thrombus in the pump remains a clinical challenge. We screened for LVAD-related intravascular hemolysis among 115 consecutive patients surviving HeartMateII implantation and investigated the role of medical therapy in resolving the hemolysis. Hemolytic events were identified in 7% of patients, 2-26 months after implant, manifested by peak lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels >6 times normal. With the institution of heparin and enhanced antiplatelet therapy, LDH levels receded rapidly reaching a stable trough level near baseline within 2 weeks with the resolution of clinical symptoms except in one patient who required additional therapy with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Complications included transient renal failure, one splenic infarct, and a cerebrovascular attack after tPA. The acute event of hemolysis resolved with medical therapy, and all were successfully discharged. However, recurrent hemolysis was common (6/8 patients over the next 1-7 months). At the end of follow-up, three patients were transplanted, one patient died refusing LVAD exchange for recurrent hemolysis, and 4 remained alive on LVAD support. Medical treatment with intensification of anticoagulation can be effective in resolving the acute hemolytic event. However, a definitive long-term strategy should be planned because the recurrence rate is high.
- Heart assist device