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Keywords:

  • Heart transplant;
  • Ventricular assist device;
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

Abstract

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) has long been the sole means of mechanical support for pediatric patients with end-stage cardiac failure, but has a high waitlist mortality and a reported survival to hospital discharge of less than 50%. The purpose of this study was to compare waitlist mortality and survival for ECMO versus ventricular assist device (VAD) support. A review was conducted of all patients listed for heart transplantation (HTx) since 2002 and requiring mechanical support. VAD support has been available from 2004 (Berlin Heart Excor Pediatrics). Competing risks analysis was used to model survival to one of four outcomes (HTx, death on waitlist, delisting, improvement). Thirty-six patients were on mechanical support while awaiting HTx (21 ECMO, 12 VAD, three both). Median age at listing was 1.2 years (birth–16.6 years) for ECMO and 11.3 years (0.3–14.6 years) for VAD. Diagnosis was cardiomyopathy in 33% for ECMO and 93% for VAD. Median time to HTx was 37 days (1–930) overall, 20 days (1–85) for ECMO, and 39 days (5–108) for VAD. Mechanical support was associated with increased odds of HTx (hazard ratio [HR] 2.4 [1.7–3.3], P < 0.0001) but also delisting or death waiting (HR 3.0 [1.1–7.8], P = 0.03). Waitlist mortality of 38% on ECMO was reduced to 13% with VAD use. Survival post-HTx to hospital discharge was better in the group on VAD support (92 vs. 80%). Pediatric patients requiring mechanical support as a bridge to HTx have short wait times but high waitlist mortality. Those patients who survived to be put on the Berlin Heart Excor Pediatric device based on individualized clinical decision making then had a lower waitlist mortality, a longer duration of support, and a higher survival to transplantation and hospital discharge.