Heart devices, transplants have similar costs; what will we pay?

CHICAGO, Nov. 19 Implanting lifesaving heart pumps in people with severe congestive heart failure (CHF) costs about the same as heart, liver and other transplants, according to research reported today at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2002.

"This is a landmark study because we can finally answer what it costs to put a left ventricular assist device in place. It is a device that many would consider the ultimate treatment for heart failure, a mechanical alternative to the heart," says lead author Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., director of the Cardiovascular Institute and vice chairman of surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.

Mechanical heart pumps, known as left-ventricular assist devices (LVADs), can significantly improve survival and the quality of life of patients with end-stage CHF a weakening of the heart muscle that keeps the heart from pumping enough blood for the body's needs.

The new finding poses public policy questions about paying for expensive new devices in light of rising concerns about healthcare costs. "The LVAD has clearly been shown to save lives," Oz says. "But are we, as a society, willing to pay the costs to save these lives?"

The investigators analyzed the medical and cost records of 68 patients who received LVADs during a study called REMATCH. The Randomized Evaluation of Mechanical Assistance for the Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure was a multicenter trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and Thoratec Corporation. They divided the LVAD patients into four groups, or quartiles, according to the cost each person incurred while hospitalized. They didn't include the cost of the LVAD, which is about $65,000.

The average cost for LVAD treatment was $196,699.

The major contributors to hospital costs were time spent in the intensive care unit or a regular hospital bed (39 percent), pharmacy expenses (15 percent), supplies (14 percent) and diagnos

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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