Gastrointestinal Bleeding in Patients Supported with Left Ventricular Assist Devices: The Journey from Bridging to Destination


Internal Medicine

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The American Journal of Cardiology


End-stage heart failure is a prevalent and fatal cardiovascular disease. Almost 1 in 4 cases of mortality in the United States is attributed to heart failure. Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) have emerged as a safe destination therapy or bridge to transplant. Despite remarkable results, LVAD is associated with significant adverse events, such as gastrointestinal bleeding (GIB). In this review, we aimed to understand the incidence and prevalence, pathophysiologic mechanisms, predictors, diagnostic mechanisms, management, and preventative measures of GIB in patients with an LVAD. GIB is a common adverse event in patients with an LVAD with an incidence of 15% to 25%. The exact pathogenesis of GIB is poorly understood. However, different mechanisms of bleeding have been described, such as arteriovenous malformations, acquired von Willebrand syndrome, coagulopathy, and treatment with antithrombotic therapy. Upper GIB is the most common site of GIB in patients with an LVAD. The management of GIB in patients with LVAD includes ensuring hemodynamic stability, holding or reversing antithrombotic therapy, and investigating and controlling the source of GIB through diagnostic and interventional endoscopic and radiologic means. Prophylactic medication use (e.g., danazol, octreotide, and bevacizumab) can decrease the risk of GIB in patients with an LVAD by decreasing arteriovenous malformations. Despite that the overall risk of GIB has decreased with new advancements in LVAD technology, further studies are needed regarding predictors, risk stratification, and optimal antithrombotic therapy to minimize the morbidity and mortality in patients with an LVAD. In conclusion, prompt diagnosis and management in a multidisciplinary team approach are crucial and lifesaving in such a life-threatening condition.

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Medical Subject Headings

Humans; United States; Fibrinolytic Agents (therapeutic use); Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage (epidemiology, etiology, therapy); Incidence; Heart Failure; Heart-Assist Devices (adverse effects); Arteriovenous Malformations (complications); Retrospective Studies

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