Stroke in Patients with Left Ventricular Assist Devices

BACKGROUND Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) are artificial pumps used in end-stage heart failure to support the circulatory system. These cardiac assist devices work in parallel to the heart, diverting blood from the left ventricle through an outflow graft and into the ascending aorta. LVADs have allowed patients with end-stage heart failure to live longer and with improved quality of life compared to best medical therapy alone. However, they are associated with significant risks related to both thrombosis and bleeding in this medically complex patient population. As LVADs continue to be used more widely, stroke neurologists need to become familiar with the unique physical exam and vascular imaging findings associated with this population. SUMMARY Reported rates of LVAD-associated stroke at 2 years post-implantation range from 10 to 30%, which is significantly higher than in age-matched controls. There are approximately equal rates of ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes, and rates are highest during the peri-implantation period and in the first year of therapy. Risk factors associated with ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke in this cohort can be grouped into treatment-related factors, including specific devices and antithrombotic/anticoagulation strategy, and patient-related factors. Evidence for reperfusion therapy for acute stroke in this population is limited. Intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV-tPA) is often contraindicated as events may occur in the perioperative setting, or in the context of therapeutic anticoagulation. Endovascular therapy with successful recanalization is reported, but there is little experience documented in the published literature. Key messages: LVAD use is increasingly common. Given the high associated risks of stroke, neurologists will need to become increasingly familiar with an approach to assessment and therapy for LVAD patients with cerebrovascular issues.
as reported in: Cerebrovasc Dis. 2021 Sep 10 1-11 [Epub ahead of print]