There’s been a big debate re: who should care for LVAD patients… a general anesthesiologist or a cardiac anesthesiologist? See below for pros and cons of each. Ultimately, I think all anesthesiologists should be comfortable caring for these patients as we’ll see more and more LVAD patients undergoing procedures.
Goals of care for LVAD patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery should be directed at maintaining forward flow and adequate perfusion. Three main factors that affect LVAD flow are preload, RV function, and afterload.
The right ventricle is the primary means of LVAD filling; therefore, maintaining RV function is imperative.
Marked increases in systemic vascular resistance should be avoided.
Generally, decreases in pump flow should first be treated with a fluid challenge. Hypovolemia should be avoided and intraoperative losses should be replaced aggressively. Second line treatment should include inotropic support for the right ventricle.
Low-dose vasopressin (<2.4 U/h) may be the vasopressor of choice due to its minimal effect on pulmonary vascular resistance.
Standard Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Guidelines should be followed; however, external chest compressions should be avoided during cardiac arrest.
Steep Trendelenburg may increase venous return, risking RV strain. Peritoneal insufflation for laparoscopic surgery also increases afterload and has detrimental effects on preload. Insufflation should utilize minimum pressures and be increased in a gradual, step-wise fashion.
TEE can be extremely valuable in diagnosing the cause of obstruction.