Clinical experience with the Novacor ventricular assist system: Bridge to transplantation and the transition to permanent application

P. M. McCarthy*, P. M. Portner, H. G. Tobler, V. A. Starnes, N. Ramasamy, P. E. Oyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


At Stanford University, a Novacor left ventricular assist system (Baxter Healthcare Corporation, Novacor Division, Oakland, Calif.) was placed as a bridge to heart transplantation in 13 patients. During the hospitalization preceding device implantation, all patients were receiving inotropic support for biventricular failure, 11 had pulmonary edema, 6 had life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias, 5 had liver dysfunction with coagulopathy, and 2 had renal failure necessitating artificial support. The mean cardiac index before implantation of the Novacor system was 1.5. All survivors with the Novacor device had a dramatic increase in cardiac output (mean cardiac index = 3.1). One patient with cardiac allograft rejection died during implantation of the left ventricular assist system. Two patients died of pulmonary sepsis and multiorgan failure after the device was implanted. All patients who had the Novacor device implanted for more than 7 days were able to walk and ride stationary bicycles while awaiting transplantation. Ten patients (77%) underwent successful heart transplantation after a mean of 18 days' support with the Novacor device. One patient died of presumed sepsis 2 days after transplantation. Nine patients (90%) are alive 4 months to 6 years after transplantation. In the overall United States experience, 68 patients (as of May 1990) have had a Novacor left ventricular assist device implanted. Five were still being supported, 39 had received a transplant (62%), and 35 patients (90%) survived the transplant hospitalization (1 died later). No instances of device failure have occurred. Overall, the Novacor assist system provided effective bridging to transplantation, with posttransplant survival similar to results after routine transplantation. Modifications and improvements based on this clinical experience have been made in the areas of patient selection, techniques of operative placement, postoperative management, and design of the assist system. Isolated left heart support with a fully implantable left ventricular assist system will be offered as an alternative to heart transplantation for selected patients by 1992.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-587
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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