Increasing Pump Speed During Exercise Training Improves Exercise Capacity in Children with Ventricular Assist Devices.

Burstein DS, Mcbride MG, Rossano JW, O’Connor MJ, Lin KY, Mascio CE(1), White R, Iacobellis K, Rosenthal T(1), Paridon SM.

ASAIO J. 2020 Jul 17. doi: 10.1097/MAT.0000000000001231. Online ahead of print.

Exercise rehabilitation during pediatric ventricular assist device (VAD) support aims to improve musculoskeletal strengthening while awaiting heart transplantation (HT). This study aimed to determine whether increasing VAD pump speed during exercise testing and training improves exercise capacity.
A single-center cohort study was performed comparing changes in exercise capacity on serial cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) after exercise training at a fixed VAD pump speed (historical cohort from 2014 to 2017) compared with a prospective cohort (2017-2019) who underwent increasing pump speed during exercise training. All children were supported with intracorporeal continuous-flow VAD. Four subjects (13 ± 2.8 years) were included in the historical cohort, and 6 subjects (14 ± 1.7 years) were enrolled in the prospective cohort. Ninety percent had dilated cardiomyopathy, and one had single ventricle Fontan physiology. Baseline maximal oxygen consumption (VO2) was 19 ± 6.3 ml/kg/min.
After exercise training with increased pump speed, there was substantial improvement in aerobic capacity (maximal VO2 increased 42% vs. decreased 3%, respectively) and working capacity (maximal work increased 49% vs. 13%, respectively) compared with fixed pump speed. There were no adverse events reported in either the fixed or increased pump speed cohorts. Increasing VAD pump speed during exercise training results in substantial improvement in both physical working and aerobic capacity compared a fixed pump speed in children on VAD support regardless of single or biventricular ventricle physiology. Further study of a larger cohort is needed to validate these findings to improve the approach to pediatric cardiac rehabilitation in this population.