Heart Transplant Waiting List Implications of Increased Ventricular Assist Device Use as a Bridge Strategy: A National Analysis

Abstract [from journal]

Background: The use of ventricular assist devices (VAD) as a bridge to heart transplant (HT) is increasing, while HT volume remains stagnant. This may portend longer waiting times and an otherwise more competitive environment for all patients on the HT waiting list.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of patients who were listed for HT in the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) database from 2000 to 2015 was conducted. Mean waiting time, proportion of HT reception (%HT), proportion of death (%death), and proportion of waiting list removal (%removal) were calculated across three eras: Era 1 (2000 to 2007), Era 2 (2008 to 2011), and Era 3 (2012 to 2015).

Results: During the study period, 29,728 patients successfully underwent HT. 19,127 (64.3%) were directly transplanted (direct HT); 4,491 (15.1%) received VADs prior to listing as a bridge to decision (BTD); and 4,593 (15.5%) received VADs after listing as a bridge to transplant (BTT). Across the three eras, the average number of registrants per year grew. Among all groups, waiting time increased across the eras. %HT generally decreased in the BTD and BTT groups but remained constant in the direct HT group. %removal increased, while %death decreased in all group across the eras.

Conclusions: Waiting time for HT increased from 2000 to 2015. Patients with VADs as a bridge strategy experienced decreasing %HT and increasing %removal but stable survival. Improvements in VAD safety and durability will ensure their success as part of a bridge strategy to HT under the new UNOS allocation policy.