Impact of left ventricular assist device (LVAD) support on the cardiac reverse remodeling process

S Klotz, AH Jan Danser and D Burkhoff
Prog.Biophys.Mol.Biol. 2008;97:479-496

With improved technology and expanding indications for use, left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) are assuming a greater role in the care of patients with end-stage heart failure. Following LVAD implantation with the intention of bridge to transplant, it became evident that some patients exhibit substantial recovery of ventricular function. This prompted explantation of some devices in lieu of transplantation, the so-called bridge-to-recovery (BTR) therapy. However, clinical outcomes following these experiences are not always successful. Patients treated in this fashion have often progressed rapidly back to heart failure. Special knowledge has emerged from studies of hearts supported by LVADs that provides insights into the basic mechanisms of ventricular remodeling and possible limits of ventricular recovery. In general, it was these studies that spawned the concept of reverse remodeling now recognized as an important goal of many heart failure treatments. Important examples of myocardial and/or ventricular properties that do not regress towards normal during LVAD support include abnormal extracellular matrix metabolism, increased tissue angiotensin levels, myocardial stiffening and partial recovery of gene expression involved with metabolism. Nevertheless, studies of LVAD-heart interactions have led to the understanding that although we once considered the end-stage failing heart of patients near death to be irreversibly diseased, an unprecedented degree of myocardial recovery is possible, when given sufficient mechanical unloading and restoration of more normal neurohormonal milieu. Evidence supporting and unsupporting the notion of reverse remodeling and clinical implications of this process will be reviewed.

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