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AIMS: A lack of donor hearts has stimulated interest in using blood pumps to treat severe heart failure. We tested the hypothesis that a new continuous flow circulatory assist device could be employed safely to relieve symptoms of heart failure and evaluated the potential to prolong life. METHODS AND RESULTS: An intracardiac axial flow pump was implanted in 17 heart failure patients [idiopathic dilated (12), ischaemic (4), or amyloid cardiomyopathy (1)]. All were deemed ineligible for transplantation. Implantation of the device was by left thoracotomy (15) or median sternotomy (2). Power delivery was by a skull-mounted titanium pedestal. All patients survived surgery. None needed right ventricular support. There were three hospital deaths, two early from subdural haematoma and aortic thrombosis, one late after switching to transplantation. A total of 14 patients left hospital with a cumulative support-time of 15.9 years (median: 293 days, interquartile range: 286 days, 1-44 months). Actuarial 1-, 2-, and 3-year survivals were 56, 47, and 24%, respectively. There was no pump failure. Quality of life scores improved. Two superficial pedestal infections were successfully treated. Four patients had cerebral thrombo-embolism: two early events attributed to inadequate anticoagulation and two late with near-complete resolution. An improved anticoagulant regime addressed this problem. Late death occurred in five patients from battery disconnection, subdural haematoma, bowel ischaemia, respiratory failure, and after cardiac transplantation. CONCLUSION: Continuous flow blood pumps provided symptomatic relief of severe heart failure with high quality of life. Event-free survival reached 4 years. Analysis of adverse events led to improved management strategies. There is potential for widespread use of blood pumps in the community. A controlled trial is required.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Heart J

Publication Date





1031 - 1038


Aged, Autopsy, Disease-Free Survival, Feasibility Studies, Female, Heart Failure, Heart-Assist Devices, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Postoperative Care, Postoperative Complications, Quality of Life, Treatment Outcome