Comparison of continuous-flow and pulsatile-flow left ventricular assist devices: is there an advantage to pulsatility?
Background: Continuous-flow left ventricular assist devices (CFVAD) are currently the most widely used type of mechanical circulatory support as bridge-to-transplant and destination therapy for end-stage congestive heart failure (HF). Compared to the first generation pulsatile-flow left ventricular assist devices (PFVADs), CFVADs have demonstrated improved reliability and durability. However, CFVADs have also been associated with certain complications thought to be linked with decreased arterial pulsatility. Previous studies comparing CFVADs and PFVADs have presented conflicting results. It is important to understand the outcome differences between CFVAD and PFVAD in order to further advance the current VAD technology.
Methods: In this review, we compared the outcomes of CFVADs and PFVADs and examined the need for arterial pulsatility for the future generation of mechanical circulatory support.
Results: CVADs offer advantages of smaller size, increased reliability and durability, and subsequent improvements in survival. However, with the increasing duration of long-term support, it appears that CFVADs may have specific complications and a lower rate of left ventricular recovery associated with diminished pulsatility, increased pressure gradients on the aortic valve and decreased compliance in smaller arterial vessels. PFVAD support or pulsatility control algorithms in CFVADs could be beneficial and potentially necessary for long term support.
Conclusions: Given the relative advantages and disadvantages of CFVADs and PFVADs, the ultimate solution may lie in incorporating pulsatility into current and emerging CFVADs whilst retaining their existing benefits. Future studies examining physiologic responses, end-organ function and LV remodeling at varying degrees of pulsatility and device support levels are needed.