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The Journal of heart and lung transplantation


INTRODUCTION: Traditionally, implantation of Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADs) is performed via median sternotomy. Recently, less invasive thoracotomy approaches are growing in popularity as they involve less surgical trauma, potentially less bleeding, and may preserve right ventricular function. We hypothesized implantation of LVADs via thoracotomy has less perioperative right ventricular failure (RVF) and shorter postoperative length of stay (LOS).

METHODS: Continuous flow LVAD implants from Intermacs between February 6, 2014 - December 31, 2018 were identified. Patients implanted via thoracotomy were propensity matched in a 1:1 ratio with patients implanted via sternotomy. Outcomes were compared between sternotomy and thoracotomy approach and by device type (axial, centrifugal-flow with hybrid levitation (CF-HL), centrifugal-flow with full magnetic levitation devices (CF-FML)). The primary outcome was time to first moderate or severe RVF. Secondary outcomes included survival and LOS.

RESULTS: Overall 978 thoracotomy patients were matched with 978 sternotomy patients. Over the study period, 242 thoracotomy patients and 219 sternotomy patients developed RVF with no significant difference in time to first moderate to severe RVF by surgical approach overall (p = 0.27) or within CF-HL (p = 0.36) or CF-FML devices (p = 0.25). Survival did not differ by implant technique (150 deaths in thoracotomy group, 154 deaths in sternotomy group; p = 0.58). However, sternotomy approach was associated with a significantly shorter LOS (17 Vs 18 days, p = 0.009).

CONCLUSION: As compared to sternotomy, implantation of continuous flow LVADs via thoracotomy approach does not reduce moderate to severe RVF or improve survival but does reduce post-operative LOS. Device type did not influence outcomes and most centers did a small volume of thoracotomy implants.

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