Heart, Lung and Circulation
Original Article| Volume 23, ISSUE 3, P234-241, March 2014

Bacteraemia in Ventricular Assist Devices: A Common Complication that Need Not Affect Clinical Outcomes

Published:November 25, 2013DOI:


      Ventricular assist device (VAD) implantation has become an effective option for patients with severe heart failure. However, device-related infections remain a significant problem. The aim of this study was to describe the incidence and microbiological aetiology of bacteraemia in patients with VADs, and to assess the impact of bacteraemia on clinical outcomes.


      A retrospective study was conducted of patients having VAD implantation at the Alfred Hospital (Melbourne, Australia) from October 1990 to July 2009. Medical records and microbiology databases were reviewed. Patients who were supported with a VAD for 72 h or more were evaluated for demographic data, VAD type, the occurrence of bacteraemia and clinical outcomes.


      During the 19-year period, 135 VAD patients (89 Thoratec PVAD, 10 Novacor, and 36 Ventrassist) supported for a total duration of 17,304 (median 74) support days were included. Sixty-one patients (45%) developed VAD-associated bacteraemia, an incidence of 5.6 episodes per 1000 support days. The incidence of bacteraemia per 1000 days of support was similar for the three devices used: Thoratec PVAD, Novacor and Ventrassist VADs (7.8 ± 0.8, 5.2 ± 1.5 and 3.4 ± 0.5, respectively, p = 0.74). Staphylococcus aureus was the most common pathogen (25%). The rates of death on device, survival to transplant, recovery with explant and outcomes after transplantation, including 30-day mortality, median survival time and incidence of cerebrovascular accidents were not significantly impacted upon by bacteraemia.


      Bacteraemia is common in VAD patients. However, the incidence of VAD-associated bacteraemia is independent of device type and with aggressive antimicrobial therapy; clinical outcomes need not be affected by the bacteraemia.


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