Ventricular assist devices and middle age reduce heart transplantation rates for waitlist candidates

James J. Whitbread, Kent Stevens, Katherine A. Giuliano, Alejandro I. Suarez-Pierre, Jennifer S. Lawton, Steven Hsu, Chun W. Choi, Robert S.D. Higgins, Ahmet Kilic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Ventricular assist devices (VADs) are commonly employed as a bridge to transplantation for heart failure. The full effects of VADs on transplantation rates are not fully understood. We sought to compare transplantation rates stratified by age and VAD status. Methods: Using the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) database, we investigated the impact of age and VAD status on heart allocation rates among all transplant-eligible patients from January 2005 to September 2018. Patients were grouped based on the presence (+) or absence (−) of a VAD as well as age (<45, 45-65, and >65 years). Demographics were compared with a multivariate competing risk analysis that yielded risk-adjusted subdistribution hazard ratios (SHR). Results: Among the 50 602 total waitlist candidates, 18 271 patients with a VAD had higher rates of diabetes and cerebrovascular disease at waitlist entry. Multivariate analysis found statistically significant lower rates of transplantation for all (+)VAD groups compared with age-matched (−)VAD counterparts, with the 45- to 65-year-old (+)VAD group having the lowest transplantation rate (SHR = 0.62; P <.0005). Among (−)VAD patients, transplantation rates increased with increase in age. Conclusions: There is a statistically significant reduced rate of transplantation for patients with a VAD compared with those without a VAD, with the lowest rate among those of ages 45 to 65 years with a VAD. The increasing prevalence of this demographic and the deprioritization of VADs in the new heart allocation criteria have the potential to further exacerbate this difference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1778-1786
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cardiac Surgery
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • circulatory support devices
  • database
  • heart failure
  • outcomes
  • transplant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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