Background: Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) are increasingly used to treat patients with end-stage heart failure. These patients may develop acute noncardiac surgical problems around the time of LVAD implantation or, as survival continues to improve, chronic surgical problems as ambulatory patients remote from the LVAD implant. Previous reports of noncardiac surgical problems in LVAD patients included patients with older, first-generation devices and do not address newer, second-generation devices. We describe the frequency and management of noncardiac surgical problems encountered during LVAD support with these newer-generation devices to assist noncardiac surgeons involved in the care of patients with LVADs. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of consecutive patients receiving LVADs at our institution. We collected data for any consultation by noncardiac surgeons within the scope of general surgery during LVAD support and subsequent treatment. Results: Ninety-nine patients received implantable LVADs between 2003 and 2009 (first-generation, n = 19; second-generation, n = 80). Excluding intestinal hemorrhage, general surgical opinions were rendered for 34 patients with 49 problems, mostly in the acute recovery phase after LVAD implantation. Of those, 27 patients underwent 28 operations. Respiratory failure and intra-abdominal pathologies were the most common problems addressed, and LVAD rarely precluded operation. Patients with second-generation LVADs were more likely to survive hospitalization (P =.04) and develop chronic, rather than emergent, surgical problems. Conclusion: Patients with LVADs frequently require consultation from noncardiac surgeons within the scope of general surgeons and often require operation. Patients with second-generation LVADs are more likely to become outpatients and develop more elective surgical problems. Noncardiac surgeons will be increasingly involved in caring for patients with LVADs and should anticipate the problems unique to this patient population.
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