The clinical and cost-effectiveness of left ventricular assist devices for end-stage heart failure: a systematic review and economic evaluation

A. Clegg, D. A. Scott, E. Loveman, J. Colquitt, J. Hutchinson, Pamela Lee Royle, J. Bryant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To assess the clinical and cost-effectiveness of left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) as a bridge to heart transplantation (BTT), as a bridge to myocardial recovery (BTR) or as a long-term chronic support (LTCS) for people with end-stage heart failure (ESHF).

Data sources: For the systematic review, electronic databases and bibliographies of related publications plus experts and manufacturers. For the economic evaluations, data originated from the systematic review of clinical and cost-effectiveness, UK hospitals, device manufacturers and expert opinion.

Review methods: For the systematic review, studies were selected and assessed against a set of rigorous criteria; data were then synthesised using a narrative approach through subgroup analysis based on the indication for treatment, type of LVAD and quality of studies. The economic evaluation developed two models to evaluate the use of LVADs, first as a BTT and second as LTCS for patients suffering from ESHF.

Results: Sixteen studies assessed the clinical effectiveness of LVADs as a BTT. Despite the poor methodological quality of the evidence, LVADs appeared beneficial compared to other treatment options (i.e. inotropic agents or usual care) or to no care (i.e. the natural history of ESHF) improving the survival of people with ESHF during the period of support and following heart transplantation. Patients supported by an LVAD appeared to have an improved functional status compared with those on usual care and experienced an improvement in their quality of life from before device implantation to the period during support. Serious adverse events are a risk for patients with an LVAD. With a scarcity of evidence directly comparing different devices, it is difficult to identify specific devices as the most clinically effective. The HeartMate LVAD is the only device that has evidence comparing it with the different alternatives, appearing to be more clinically effective than inotropic agents and usual care and as clinically effective as the Novacor device. Second generation devices, such as Jarvik 2000 and MicroMed Debakey LVADs, are early in their development but show considerable promise that should be assessed through long-term studies. Evidence of the clinical effectiveness of LVADs as a BTR was limited to seven non-comparative observational studies that appeared to show that the LVADs were beneficial in providing support until myocardial recovery. It was not possible to assess whether the LVADs are more effective than other alternatives or specific devices. No evidence was found on the quality of life or functional status of patients and limited information on adverse events was reported. Six studies assessed the clinical effectiveness of LVADs as an LTCS and from these it was evident that LVADs provided benefits in terms of improved survival, functional status and quality of life. Nineteen studies assessed the costs and cost-effectiveness of LVADS for people with ESHF, with the majority being simple costing studies and very few studies of the cost-effectiveness of LVADs. With no relevant cost-effectiveness studies available, an economic evaluation for BTT and LTCS was developed. The economic evaluation has shown that neither LVAD indication considered, that is, BTT and LTCS, is a cost-effective use. For the HeartMate LVAD used as a BTT the cost per QALY was pound 65,242. In the less restrictive indication, LTCS, where LVADs are not just given to patients awaiting transplantation, the analysis has shown that LTCS is not cost-effective. The baseline cost per QALY of the first-generation HeartMate LVAD was pound 170,616. One- and multi-way sensitivity analysis had limited effect on the cost per QALY. A hypothetical scenario based on the cost of a second-generation MicroMed DeBakey device illustrated that a 60% improvement in survival over first-generation devices was necessary before the incremental cost-effectiveness approached pound 40,000 per QALY.

Conclusions: Although the review showed that LVADs are clinically effective as a BTT with ESHF, the economic evaluation indicated that they are not cost-effective. With the limited and declining availability of donor hearts for transplantation, it appears that the future of the technology is in its use as an LTCS. Further research is needed to examine the clinical effectiveness of LVADs for people with ESHF, assessing patient survival, functional ability, quality of life and adverse events. Evaluations of the clinical effectiveness of LVADs should include economic evaluations, as well as data on quality of life, utilities, resources and costs. A systematic review of the epidemiology of ESHF should be undertaken to assess its potential impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-148
Number of pages147
JournalHealth Technology Assessment
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - 2005




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