Importance: Given the shortage of donor hearts and improvement in outcomes with left ventricular assist device (LVAD) therapy, a relevant but, to date, unanswered question is whether select patients with advanced heart failure should receive LVAD destination therapy as an alternative to heart transplant. Objective: To determine whether a strategy of LVAD destination therapy is associated with similar survival benefit as wait-listing for heart transplant with or without LVAD therapy among patients with advanced heart failure. Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective propensity-matched cohort analysis used data on heart transplants from the United Network for Organ Sharing registry and LVAD implants from the Interagency Registry for Mechanically Assisted Circulatory Support from January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2014. The matched LVAD destination therapy cohort included 3411 patients. Data analysis for this study was conducted from December 22, 2017, to May 24, 2019. Main Outcomes and Measures: Survival at 5 years was analyzed using Cox proportional hazards models. Results: In total, 8281 patients had albumin level, creatinine level, and BMI data recorded and were included in the analysis. Despite propensity score matching, the 3411 patients receiving LVAD destination therapy still tended to be slightly older than the 3411 patients wait-listed for heart transplant (64.0 years [interquartile range, 55.0-70.0 years] vs 60.0 [interquartile range, 54.0-65.0 years]; P <.001), but there was no significant difference in sex (2701 men [79.2%] vs 2648 men [77.6%]; P =.13). After propensity score matching for age, sex, body mass index, renal function, and albumin level, 3411 patients were wait-listed for heart transplant. This included 1607 patients with bridge to transplant LVAD therapy and 1804 patients without LVAD. The strategy of wait-listing for heart transplant was associated with better 5-year survival than LVAD destination therapy (risk ratio, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.38-0.46) after matching and adjusting for key clinical factors. This survival advantage was associated with heart transplant (adjusted risk ratio for time-dependent transplant status, 0.27; 95% CI, 0.24-0.32). Conclusions and Relevance: The present analysis suggests that heart transplant with or without bridge to transplant LVAD therapy was associated with superior 5-year survival compared with LVAD destination therapy among patients matched on several relevant clinical factors. Continued improvement in LVAD technology, along with prospective comparative research, appears to be needed to amend this strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)652-659
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Cardiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


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