Clinical Predictors for Repeat Hospitalizations in Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) Patients With Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Charles V. Welden, Wiley Truss, Gerald McGwin, Frederick Weber, Shajan Peter


Background: Patients implanted with left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) carry an increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding (GIB), estimated at 25% in most studies. Significant efforts are employed in localizing and stopping the source of bleeding, but the rates of repeat hospitalization for GIB remain surprisingly high. Given the increasing incidence of LVAD-dependent end-stage heart failure and the excessive costs associated with repetitive endoscopic investigations, risk factors associated with re-bleeding need to be determined. The aim of our study was to investigate clinical predictors associated with repeat hospitalizations for GIB in patients implanted with a LVAD.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort using the prospectively assembled ventricular assist device database at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. We identified all end-stage heart failure patients who were implanted with a continuous-flow (CF) LVAD between Jan 1, 2009 and Dec 31, 2013. We excluded pulsatile devices, biventricular assist devices (BiVADs), right ventricular assist devices (RVADs), and patients under 19 years of age.

Results: There were 102 patients implanted with a CF-LVAD within the specified time period. With an average follow-up of 127 weeks, 32 (31.4%) patients developed GIB requiring 79 separate hospitalizations. Average time from LVAD implantation to first bleed was 343 days. The re-bleeding rate requiring readmission was 56.3% in those admitted with GIB, with eight (25%) of the patients necessitating multiple readmissions. The average hospital stay for a primary diagnosis of GIB was 9.45 days. Totally, 68 (86%) patients required endoscopic evaluation during their hospitalization, with 35 (44%) necessitating multiple procedures during the same admission. The average time to first endoscopy was 2.5 days with a median of 2 days. Patients receiving early endoscopy (< 48 h from admission) were 57% less likely to require future readmission for GIB compared to patients undergoing late endoscopy (> 48 h) (OR: 0.43, CI: 0.19 - 0.9). Other factors associated with repeat admissions for GIB included indication for LVAD (bridge to transplant had OR: 0.07, CI: 0.02 - 0.27), male gender (OR: 10.4, CI: 1.8 - 59), length of initial hospital stay (OR: 0.83, CI: 0.71 - 0.97), and INR on admission (OR: 3.6, CI: 1.46 - 8.8). Although not statistically significant, patients undergoing subsequent endoscopies during a single admission were 84% less likely to develop re-bleeding in the future (OR: 0.158, CI: 0.025 - 1.02).

Conclusions: GIB in LVAD patients is a significant problem with high rates of readmission despite extensive endoscopic investigations and anticoagulant adjustments. Our experience revealed that early endoscopy, longer initial hospital stay, and better INR control were all associated with decreased rates of readmission for GIB in this population. These modifiable factors should be emphasized and addressed in the future to reduce the burdens associated with repeated hospitalizations.

Gastroenterol Res. 2018;11(2):100-105


Gastrointestinal bleeding; Left ventricular assist device; LVAD associated bleeding; Acquired von Willebrand disease

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Gastroenterology Research, bimonthly, ISSN 1918-2805 (print), 1918-2813 (online), published by Elmer Press Inc.                     
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