End of life for patients with left ventricular assist devices: Insights from INTERMACS

Colleen K. McIlvennan*, Kathleen L. Grady, Daniel D. Matlock, Laura J. Helmkamp, Martha Abshire, Larry A. Allen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Trial and registry data have reported mortality rates and causes of death in patients with left ventricular assist devices (LVADs); however, a more granular description is needed of end of life, including location of death and quality of life (QOL), to better guide expectations and care. METHODS: To identify where patients with an LVAD died, characterize QOL before death, and cause of death over time, we evaluated patients in the Interagency Registry for Mechanically Assisted Circulatory Support (INTERMACS) implanted with a continuous-flow LVAD. RESULTS: From 18,733 patients implanted with an LVAD during the period 2008 to 2016, 4,916 patients were known to have died, of whom 98% had a recorded location of death. Overall, 76.9% died in the hospital, with progressively more patients dying outside of the hospital further post-LVAD implant: <1 month, 2.3%; 1 to 12 months, and 16.8%; and >12 months, 37.4%. In a multivariable analysis, increased age (RR (risk ratio) 1.06, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02 to 1.12, p = 0.01) and destination therapy indication (RR 1.15, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.28, p = 0.01) increased the likelihood of dying outside the hospital. Comparing 3 months post-implant with 6 months before death in a subset of patients, QOL remained clinically stable (EQ-5D Visual Analog Scale [mean ± SD]: 68.3 ± 22.2 to 66.7 ± 21.7, p = 0.11; KCCQ: 61.0 ± 22.2 to 57.8 ± 23.2, p = 0.003). The most common cause of death <1 month post-implant was multiple-organ failure (20.4%) and at >1 month post-implant it was neurologic dysfunction (28.2%). CONCLUSIONS: Most patients with an LVAD died in the hospital. QOL remained stable months before death and causes of death were varied, but increasingly dominated by stroke. By understanding death with an LVAD in place, clinicians are in a better position to educate patients and caregivers about what to expect and provide to support tailored to patient and caregiver needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)374-381
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • end-of-life care
  • ethics
  • heart failure
  • heart-assist devices
  • palliative care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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