Conference Coverage

Bariatric surgery in advanced heart failure wins transplant eligibility



Bariatric surgery is a safe and effective means for obese patients with advanced heart failure supported by a left ventricular assist device to qualify for heart transplantation, Praneet Wander, MD, reported in an abstract released as part of the annual Digestive Disease Week®.

She presented a systematic review and meta-analysis of nine retrospective or cross-sectional cohort studies totaling 86 patients with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and advanced heart failure who had a mean body mass index (BMI) of 44.8 kg/m2 when they underwent bariatric surgery at an average age of 44 years and 33.2 kg/m2 at follow-up a mean of 14.3 months later.

Of the 86 patients, 50 (58%) were able to drop their BMI below 35, a requirement for inclusion on the heart transplant waiting list, noted Dr. Wander, a gastroenterology fellow at Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y., and North Shore LIJ Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.

“A lot of bariatric surgeons don’t feel comfortable operating on patients who have a low ejection fraction,” she explained in an interview. “This study should encourage bariatric surgeons to do procedures even in patients with advanced heart failure so they can meet the BMI requirement for heart transplantation.”

Even if patients don’t actually undergo heart transplantation because of the perpetual donor organ shortage or inability to meet non–BMI-related eligibility criteria, they gain other major benefits from bariatric surgery: Their blood pressure goes down, their diabetes improves, and they become better able to engage in physical activity, she added.

Of the 86 patients in the meta-analysis, 84 underwent laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. That’s the preferred bariatric operation in patients with advanced heart failure at the Mayo Clinic as well, according to Andres J. Acosta, MD, PhD, a gastroenterologist at the medical center in Rochester, Minn.

There’s less weight loss achieved than with an open Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, but it’s a simpler operation in these high-risk patients, who typically have multiple comorbid conditions, he explained.

He predicted that Dr. Wander’s study will indeed influence bariatric surgeons at tertiary medical centers around the country to become more willing to consider weight-loss surgery in patients with advanced heart failure, while those in community practice will likely continue to be most comfortable operating on more stable patients with minimal comorbidities aside from their obesity.

“Data such as [these] will be reassuring to bariatric surgery programs such as ours, where we’re able to say: ‘Yes, there are risks, but these patients will benefit in the long term if we assume those risks,’ ” Dr. Acosta said.

He’s confident that, in the near future, the preferred form of bariatric surgery in patients with advanced heart failure will be a minimally invasive procedure performed endoscopically by gastroenterologists. He and his Mayo Clinic colleagues have already established a track record of success with endoscopic sleeve gastrectomy in patients with advanced kidney, liver, or lung disease in order to make them eligible for transplantation, as well as for the ancillary benefits provided by massive weight loss.

“There’s a little less weight loss than with laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, but it’s a significantly less risky operation. Shorter operative time, shorter hospital length of stay, less risk of infections and leaks,” he said in an interview. “We haven’t done it yet in heart disease, but I think based on this study this should be the next step at Mayo.”

Radha Gopalan, MD, director of heart failure and transplantation at Banner–University Medical Center in Phoenix, pronounced Dr. Wander’s meta-analysis “a positive study that’s very supportive of what we’re doing at our center.

“At a busy heart transplant center like ours, we are comfortable managing these patients, so the bariatric surgeons are reassured that the heart failure team is behind them. The risk of the procedure is mitigated by the availability of the multidisciplinary team to get the patient with obesity and heart failure through the surgery,” he explained.

Dr. Gopalan heads a novel bariatric heart failure program at Banner. While Dr. Wander’s meta-analysis focused on bariatric surgery in heart failure patients on LVAD circulatory support, Dr. Gopalan and colleagues are moving the intervention upstream. Roughly roughly 80% of patients in his bariatric heart failure program who meet criteria for LVAD implantation are now offered bariatric surgery before an LVAD is put in.

“I am moving away from putting the LVAD in first and then doing bariatric surgery. We have gotten comfortable taking these patients for bariatric surgery with inotropic support before going to the LVAD, which has the potential to even eliminate the requirement for an LVAD. Some patients get so much better that they become transplant ineligible,” Dr. Gopalan said.

Dr. Wander reported having no financial conflicts regarding her study, conducted free of commercial support.

SOURCE: Wander P. DDW 2020 Abstract, #Mo2010.

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